How Newsworthy is Bingo?

Online bingo, while not the most popular form of online gambling, has gained some traction in recent years. Many sites, such as Zynga Bingo, Wink Bingo, or Sky Bingo, are highly rated and provide entertainment without having to know much of anything about gambling, which can be dangerous for those that haven’t experienced the rush of risking money before.

However, the question is just how important is online bingo in the UK: is important enough to be discussed in the news? And we’re talking about small news stories like the launch of a new Dragonfish mobile bingo site or another social bingo app. What are people actually saying about online bingo, when they comment on proper articles in real newspapers? What’s the tone of the news in relation to social and mobile bingo? See our infographic and then read more below.

How Newsworthy is Online Bingo? <Infographic>By answering these questions and more hopes to learn something about how our society views this emerging phenomenon.

Mentions in the News

Based on how much it’s mentioned in the news, online bingo doesn’t necessarily seem like a hot topic. Over the past four years, mentions on various British news sites show that online bingo isn’t as newsworthy as other gambling topics:

  • BBC’s online site has mentioned the game 14 times
  • The Telegraph has mentioned online bingo 10 times
  • The Independent has mentioned it 9 times

For comparison, BBC has mentioned “online poker” 53 times and “online gambling” well over 100 times in the past four years.

With those kind of numbers, it’s clear that other types of gambling are gaining more of our attention: news interest in poker and gambling overshadow online bingo by a long shot. Looking at the numbers, it’s clear that despite growing popularity, online bingo has a ways to go in gaining national attention.

On the Other Hand…

While online bingo is just beginning to get the “cool” status of other gambling games, it is much more popular and newsworthy than just a few years ago. Gamesys, one of the bigger sites to host online bingo, was ranked in the Investec Hot 100 for 2013, a list of businesses with rapid sales during this year.

Gamesys actually “ranked among the top five Hot 100 firms in terms of profits” and is expected to continue growing, along with numerous other online gambling sites. Indeed, since 2004, there has been a significant growth in the number of online bingo sites: many reports indicate there are approximately 350 online bingo sites, a number up significantly from a decade ago.

An Arena For Women

A much discussed news topic in online bingo is how it’s directed toward women: based on the color scheme and the social aspect of the game, it’s easy to see that online gaming companies are looking for a particular audience. Foxy Bingo, for instance, uses a person dressed as a fox to lead women on an exciting outing and advertise their online bingo games. The chat feature, too, is designed to pull in women; according to Mark Griffiths, a professor of gambling studies at Nottingham Trent University, relates closely to the “feminisation” of gambling.

Addiction: Bingo is Not Just For Seniors Anymore

As online bingo grows, so does the news about addiction. While some organizations, such as GamCare and the National Problem Gambling Clinic, say that they haven’t seen a “significant issue” with addiction to online bingo, there are numerous news reports about addiction to the game. Because bingo has been marketed especially toward women,  it shows up in new stories such as the one about the Devon marketing executive who spent company money in order to pay of her debt to an online bingo site.

Similarly, a foster care home manager was charged in 2011 with stealing patients’ money in order to pay of her debt, built up through playing online bingo. With stories like these populating the news, it’s clear that while bingo may offer a fun social experience, it also has its pitfalls.

What Can Comments Tell us?

As sites like Gamesys rise in popularity and addiction becomes a bigger issue for online gamblers and bingo players in particular, there’s a heated debate taking place: is online bingo dangerous or addictive enough to merit being banned or regulated?

Looking at the comments on articles from The Telegraph and The Independent, it’s clear that people hold wildly different opinions: while some cite the publicized downfall of the women noted previously, suggesting that online bingo should be banned internationally (as was done in Spain– British online gamblers are no longer be able to play on Spanish sites, due to a law introduced in 2012) or much more closely regulated, others say that “Less than 1% of those who gamble are problem gamblers,” a comment made by a reader of an Independent article on online gambling addiction.

Many commenters draw comparisons to other types of harmful addiction: alcohol, tobacco, and physical gambling parlors are often cited as problematic. From the tone of these comments, it’s clear that online bingo will have to bend to the will of the people at some point– because of the very strongly held opinions, on both sides, it’s likely that coming years will hold changes in laws and regulations surrounding online bingo, whether to make it more accessible or less so.