From playing on cruise ships, to enjoying a slice of Italian pizza while the balls are called, bingo is one of the world’s favorite games. To put it in perspective, more money is spent every year in the UK on bingo tickets than it is on football!
Depending on which part of the world you’re in, Bingo is used as an education tool, played in pubs as a drinking game, and is a really fun way to practice your language / number skills if you’re traveling in another country.
And bingo players are actually a lot younger than you might think; this isn’t your grandmothers game anymore! (35 is the average player age).
The game itself comes from Italy, dating back to 1530 when it was known as ‘Lo Giuoco del Lotto D’Italia’ (and it’s still played over pizza every Saturday).
Though nearly 500 years later, the rest of the world has well and truly caught on! Keep reading for fun facts and information about bingo around the world, and, of course, how to play.
Bingo Around the World (& How to Play!)
How to Play Bingo
Bingo isn’t the most complex of games, and perhaps that’s why it’s grown to worldwide fame; the very concept is very straightforward.
The first thing to know about bingo is that it is a game of chance (though bingo enthusiasts will deny that – some people take their winning strategies very seriously!). You’ll need a scorecard, and a way to cross / punch out letters and numbers.
On your scorecard you’ll have BINGO written across the top, and then 25 squares split into 5×5 columns (5 squares under each of the letters B, I, N, G, and O). Numbers are randomly placed across your 25 squares, and if you get 5 squares in a row, you win!
A game of bingo is traditionally played with 75 numbers, of which are drawn and called randomly by a caller. If a number is called that you see on your scorecard, you black it out, and call BINGO once you have 5 squares in a row.
While the concept is same, the rules of Bingo will vary from country to country; for instance, some games may call out a letter and number combination, and you can only count a number if it’s in your B column. Ie, if B 37 is called, and you have the number 37 in your N column, you can’t count it.
In some parts of the UK too, instead of calling BINGO, they actually call out ‘Housie’. The number of rows and columns also differ in the US as opposed to the UK, so it’s important to make sure you learn how to play bingo in the country you’re in before playing.
The average game of bingo lasts between 3 – 6 minutes (they call numbers quickly, so make sure you keep up if you’re in a country that doesn’t speak English!)
Countries Bingo is Most Popular In
As mentioned in the intro, Bingo was originally played in Italy, and it remains one of the country’s most popular games to this day. It used to be called ‘beano’ because players would cover up their numbers with beans.
It became very popular in Europe, and in the 1800’s was actually used to help German schoolchildren learn their times tables. Nowadays, it’s a great way to travel between countries and really brush up on your language skills in numbers.
And then it’s also very popular in the United Kingdom; particularly in Scotland, where 1 in 5 people play bingo. If you’re looking for a country who are passionate about the game, you can’t beat playing in the UK.
Being that America is one of the most famous gambling destinations in the world, you won’t be surprised to hear it’s commonly played here too. While there’s Vegas, of course, even the Catholic church in the US utilises bingo as a way to generate funding!
The above destinations are popular for land based Bingo, and you’ll find many bingo halls throughout each country where you can enjoy a beer with the locals (though alcohol can be very distracting if you’re a serious player!), and maybe share a slice of pizza, though Japan really reinvented the game.
Online bingo is popular in Japan, and the land of futuristic technology has paved the way for online gambling. In fact, the country has the second largest market in the world for online bingo.
Our Favorite Bingo Experience
You’ll find quirky, competitive, or casual games of bingo all over the world, and being that this is a globally loved game, it’s a great way to immerse yourself in a new community, and feel like a local.
One of our favorite weekly bingo games however happens at The George in Dublin.
The George is the only LGBTQI nightclub in the city, and it’s played a big role since 1985 in changing Ireland’s social perceptions about the LGBT community. However it doesn’t matter whether you’re straight, gay, or visiting from another country, it’s a real melting pot where everyone mixes.
The club is a welcoming place where anyone can come and dance, drink, or catch a drag show, and on Sunday nights from 9pm, you’re in for a treat with Drag Queen Bingo!
Bingo is run every week by Shirley Temple who is one of their resident Queens. There’s no cover charge, and you can win fabulous prizes as Shirley ‘calls the balls’ (she’s so good at calling the balls that she was invited to present a lottery game show called Telly Bingo).
Bingo is followed by a drag show, and it’s usually a young audience of both travelers and locals, around 25 – 40. It’s a wonderfully flamboyant night, and the atmosphere is very energetic – it’s a high spirited night full of loud laughter, music, and jokes.