What To Look For In An Online Bingo Site
- Welcome Offer
- Exclusive Rooms vs Network Rooms
- Range of Games
- Fairness, Transparency and Trust
- Player Promotions
- Player Rewards
- Small Print
- Range of Payment Methods
- The X Factor
If you’ve never played online bingo before, you won’t be aware of how much of a difference the underlying bingo software makes. It’s not just a question of brand loyalty either; many of the criteria we’ll go on to discuss are inextricably bound up with which bingo software the site is powered by. For example, if you’ve enjoyed playing 80 ball bingo at a bingo hall and want to play it online, you can immediately rule out every single Dragonfish site because the Dragonfish software doesn’t include an 80 ball game.
Roughly speaking, there’s 4 options as far as bingo software goes – Virtue Fusion/Playtech, Dragonfish, Pragmatic Play and proprietary. The first three options are all types of bingo software that can be bought in by new operators looking to enter the market whereas proprietary software can’t; in other words, all Gamesys powered bingo sites are owned by Gamesys themselves, all Entain bingo sites are owned by Entain and no-one can open a Tombola skin site. Some of the best bingo sites are powered by proprietary software!
A good welcome offer does not necessarily mean the biggest bonus. In fact, many new bingo sites that launch these days do so with welcome offers that do not include any bonus at all and several older sites are moving away from traditional deposit bonus offers as well, instead giving out slot spins or free bingo tickets (or giving the player the opportunity to win them in a game of chance). Many also have special bingo rooms with free bingo for newbies.
Our view on this type of welcome offer is that it’s great and can actually be superior to a traditional welcome bonus offer – but only if the winnings are paid in cash with no wagering requirements. (Slot spins with the winnings paid as a slot bonus, or free bingo with the winnings paid as a bingo bonus, don’t cut it in our opinion).
Nor are welcome offers everything. Some of the best and most popular bingo sites out there in terms of player experience have rather underwhelming welcome offers. Perhaps they take the view that it is better to put resources into keeping their existing players happy.
Liquidity is something that you may not have come across before, but in bingo (not slots) it is very important.
Liquidity is the amount of cash in the system – or across the network, in the case of a networked bingo room (networked means shared with other bingo sites on the same software). A bingo room with a large number of players has good liquidity meaning that the prizes (which are funded by ticket sales) can be substantial. A site (or network) with poor liquidity will have quiet bingo rooms with dismally small prizes and since this is very unattractive to players, it’s likely to go into a decline and get quieter and quieter – a bit like a club night that hasn’t managed to attract a critical mass of partygoers.
Too many players can also be a problem, though, as the chance of actually winning anything in a room with thousands of players is very small. A good bingo site will manage increases in liquidity in its exclusive bingo rooms by increasing the number of rooms and/or adding more prizes such as Roll Ons or 1TG/2TG, to give players more opportunities to win. One of the best bingo sites to win on is Mecca Bingo. They have all the big money Virtue Fusion network prizes and jackpots so there’s the chance of winning hundreds or thousands of pounds, but they also have BOB (aka Best Odds Bingo) where no more than 25 players are allowed per game. Play BOB for an hour and you’ll have a 72% chance of winning at least one full house. Indeed, BOB is one of the reasons why we chose Mecca for our best bingo sites shortlist.
Exclusive Rooms vs Network Rooms
The more exclusive bingo rooms a site has, the better able it is to manage liquidity – whereas operators have very little control over networked rooms. At one end of the scale you have Jumpman or Dragonfish skin sites with networked rooms only and at the other end you have Tombola with no networked rooms. Most are somewhere in between and top bingo sites typically combine a number of network rooms with big prize money (sometimes including other networks as well as other sites on the same network) with some exclusive rooms offering smaller but more frequent wins (Sun Bingo is a good example of this type of arrangement, with the exclusive rooms helpfully shown in a separate tab in the lobby).
Exclusive bingo rooms also usually have chat that is specific to that site only, whereas network rooms may not.
Range of games
The clear winners here are Playtech and Tombola. Both go far beyond the usual offerings of 75 and 90 ball bingo in the range of bingo games on offer. Tombola has 50 ball, 60 ball, 80 ball, Cinco, Pulse, Rollercoaster, Blocks, Morph, Paper, Reel Bingo, and several others. Playtech bingo sites have Deal Or No Deal Bingo, Rainbow Riches Bingo, Cash Cubes Bingo, Fluffy Favourites Bingo and Age of the Gods Bingo – and many also have exclusive online bingo games including BOB and Burst Bingo at Mecca Bingo and Winning Headlines and Brit 50 Bingo at Sun Bingo. Entain bingo sites are also quite good for variety of bingo games; Entain have their own versions of Deal or No Deal Bingo and Fluffy Favourites Bingo plus 90 ball variants including Friends Bingo, Cash Out Bingo and Bingo Boom.
Bingo brands which are on the same network do not all necessarily have the same range of slot games. Playtech sites vary widely in the slots they offer; all have Virtue Fusion slots such as Clover Rollover and Eyecon slots such as Fluffy Favourites but some have little else, whereas big Playtech sites either offer a much bigger range of slots in situ – like Mecca Bingo – or have a slot games section elsewhere on site that can be played with the same wallet as bingo, like the casino at Betfair.
A good bingo site will have a wide range of both bingo games and slot machines including progressive jackpots.
All bingo sites are certainly not created equal in terms of how easy it is to log in, choose a bingo room to play in and buy tickets for a bingo game. In our opinion the two most important factors for usability are the following:
- Ease of use across all devices. Here’s where having an Apple or Android app makes a difference, and most of the top UK bingo sites have one or the other or both.
- Pre-buy facilities. Playtech do well here, with tickets available to purchase for most games up to a week in advance – but so do Gamesys, Relax Gaming, Entain and the newcomer, Pragmatic Play. This is an area where Dragonfish fall down when you compare bingo sites; whichever bingo room you choose, there’s no facility to buy a ticket for anything other than the next game. It’s still possible to pre-buy for big games at Dragonfish as they take place in a separate bingo room opened for ticket sales days or even weeks in advance.
Fairness, transparency and trust
- UK bingo sites are required to have a licence from the UK Gambling Commission and this in itself confers a high degree of safety as the Licence Conditions and Codes of Practice are quite rigorous.
- Perceived fairness is essentially the chance an average player feels they have of winning and it depends on both the size of prizes relative to stake and on ticket purchase rules. For example, if a bingo game has a ticket price of 10p and there’s a maximum purchase of 96 tickets, some players probably won’t be happy about having to spend nearly £10 on just one game to avoid other players having a bigger chance of winning. Good bingo sites offer some bingo games with a low maximum number of tickets per player – often multi-stake bingo games with one ticket per player – or limit the number of players that are allowed into a bingo room (as at Tombola and mFortune where they have many rooms open concurrently, or more recently at Mecca Bingo with BOB).
- Transparency is how clear the workings of the games are to players. In our opinion the clear winner here is Relax Gaming as seen at Unibet Bingo and Bingo.com – the only platform where players can see which other players have 1TG or 2TG (and which numbers they need) while the game is going on. In their innovative HexaBingo game you can even see everyone else’s cards and numbers!
- Trust is partly a matter of brand reputation; the now defunct Vernons Bingo was extremely popular with players because of the brand’s association with the football pools, despite actually being owned by an overseas company with no connection with the original. The quality of customer service and the segregation of players funds are also very important for trust and we expect them to become even more important to players in 2022.
- Another very important factor is how easy the operator makes the process of verifying age and ID and the manner in which affordability checks are carried out where these are required.
Some bingo players like to chat while they play and others don’t. Our view is that the quality of the chat hosting is important even to those who don’t.
- Chat hosts can help players to find out about promotions and resolve problems (another important component for trust)
- Chat hosts can run chat games, where players can answer trivia and other questions (or, at Gamesys sites, play interactive minigames) to win bonus or other prizes
- A lively community encourages players to keep coming back and playing and this helps keep the liquidity (and therefore prize money) up for everyone including the non chatters
- In our view, bingo operators with their own dedicated chat hosts – either across their entire site or in their exclusive bingo rooms – stand out from those that only have network chat and this is especially true when the chat hosts are native English speakers with lively personalities and a good knowledge of UK popular culture
- Accessibility and usability of the chat on mobile devices is also really important
- At Gamesys sites and Tombola chat is regarded as super important and has been enabled for those playing slots or instant win games as well as for bingo
- Jumpman bingo sites and some other Pragmatic Play bingo sites have taken the opposite view and removed the chat rooms completely
It is generally a good sign when a site has won awards, especially if
- They are voted for by the players – even though there have been several instances of operators offering players a bonus to encourage them to vote, it still indicates that the players must be pretty happy with the site
- They are judged by an independent panel of experts – as is usually the case for fair play, customer service or social responsibility awards
The UK’s most popular bingo sites have something new or free for existing players to do several times a week or even every day. This need not involve running a series of different promotions, although it often does. A daily bonus game (as found at Double Bubble Bingo where there is a choice of four, or Tombola’s new for 2022 games Free Vibes and Free Form where there is £40,000 to be won every week) or daily free spins (as found at No Wagering Dragonfish sites including Bingo Besties) can be just as enjoyable for players.
Quality as well as quantity is very important when it comes to bingo promotions, and when it comes to raffles and other giveaways it makes a big difference whether or not the promotion is networked. Although there have been some excellent networked giveaways in the past they have involved some very large prizes to balance out the huge number of participants (the recurrent Playtech £1 million escalator jackpots bingo promotion and £1 million slots prize draw spring to mind).
Finally there is the amount of imagination and ingenuity that goes into selecting the prizes. While everyone likes to win real cash when playing online bingo, the really memorable prizes are the ones that money can’t buy such as VIP experiences, or something really off the wall like the opportunity for your pet to appear in an episode of Emmerdale, as was once done at Gala Bingo.
In 2022, the vast majority of bingo sites have moved away from traditional tiered VIP schemes to more equitable player rewards systems. Daily free games as found at Tombola and at Gamesys sites are one way of rewarding regular play, and regular freebies based on the previous week or month’s play as found at Paddy Power Bingo are another. In the tiered loyalty schemes that do still exist like the one at Costa Bingo and sister sites, once you reach a higher level and gain access to loyalty bingo rooms and promotions, you can’t drop back down again.
A few bingo sites still have a bespoke VIP scheme with exclusive events and promotions for VIPs by invitation only, but because operators have to be careful that players do not feel pressurised into spending more than they are comfortable with in the hope of becoming a VIP you’re unlikely to hear much about it unless and until you receive an invitation. The remaining schemes are likely to have to be phased out in the not too distant future as part of the reforms which are due to take place to UK gambling legislation.
No-one likes to find unpleasant surprises lurking in the small print (or not so small print, following the crackdown on misleading advertising) and the best bingo sites avoid having any of these nasties:
- Caps on winnings
- Excessive wagering requirements
- Long processing times or fees on withdrawals
- Long lists of games that are excluded from bonus play or don’t count towards wagering requirements
- Short time limits on bonuses, especially if they can’t be used until the player runs out of cash
When we prepare to list a bingo site, we have a thorough read of the terms and conditions and if we find anything of this nature in there we include it in the review.
Range of payment methods
The number of different payment methods on offer has little to do with whether a bingo site is any good or not and indeed, some of the best UK bingo sites accept just one payment method – debit cards. For players who are looking for the facility to deposit using a specific payment method such as Paypal or mobile phone billing, what matters is whether the operator charges extra fees, excludes deposits made by their preferred method or imposes other restrictions such as a maximum stake size – which comes back to no nasties in the small print.
The X Factor
Think about it and you’ll realise that for a bingo site, liquidity underlies everything.
What all of the other things on our wishlist do, is encourage players to sign up to and keep playing at the bingo site that gets them right. The more players that do that, the better the liquidity gets – and the better liquidity itself encourages more players as the prize money gets bigger, the chat gets livelier and the site gets more fun to play on.
So basically, a good bingo site attracts lots of players because it is a good bingo site, and becomes an even better bingo site because it attracts lots of players – which in turn, attracts more players. Just like a party that’s really buzzing!
Wikipedia – history of bingo
UK Gambling Commission – legalities surrounding bingo
UK Gambling Commission – how to complain
Bingo Association (a trade body for bingo halls)
Betting & Gaming Council
Advertising Standards Authority – news and rulings about gambling advertising
UK Gambling Commission Licences
Yes, online bingo is safe as long as you play at a bingo site which is licensed by the UK Gambling Commission. All of the games, as well as the site itself, have to comply with their rigorous standards to ensure fairness and the site is also required to promote responsible gambling. However, you should be careful with password security and ensure that you don’t reveal sensitive information such as your date of birth in the chat. For cast iron safety including the top grade of player funds protection choose one of our Trusted & Safe bingo sites.
Online bingo sites work just like bingo halls in that players buy tickets for a bingo game and most of that money is paid out as cash prizes. The rest covers the running costs and any profit the bingo site makes. One main difference is that if you play in a bingo hall with paper tickets you have to daub the numbers yourself whereas online this happens automatically even if you get disconnected. Another is that in a bingo hall, chatting while you play is frowned upon but at an online bingo site, it is positively encouraged! The best bingo sites also have many bingo rooms to choose from – like having lots of different bingo halls on your doorstep.
Yes, you can win real money on online bingo! Each and every online bingo game must have at least one winner and some bingo games have several winners as they include line prizes as well as the full house prize. The chance of winning at online bingo goes down as the number of ticket holders – and usually the size of the prize – goes up. You can improve your chance of winning by playing in a bingo room with fewer players and/or buying more tickets per game. UK bingo sites must undergo rigorous fairness testing in order to have a licence so you can be assured that every bingo ticket you buy has exactly the same chance of winning as all the other tickets in the same game.
The best bingo site to win on depends on what you mean by win. Do you want to win often, or do you want to win big? If you want to win often and don’t mind if the prizes are quite small we suggest BOB at Mecca Bingo. If you are looking for the bingo game with the highest Return To Player we suggest checking out the most recently added game at Tombola. If you want to play for big prizes try the 90 ball network room at any Virtue Fusion bingo site but be aware that your chance of winning will be very low due to the extremely large number of other players.
All online bingo sites accept card payments but only debit cards can be used – there is a ban on the use of credit cards for gambling transactions in the UK. Many bingo sites also accept other payment methods but because these are not allowed to be funded by credit card either, the future of these methods depends on the payment provider and/or operator being able to show that they have watertight procedures to prevent the use of credit cards by the back door. Paypal, which is accepted by a great many online bingo sites, does have such procedures in place but it is not yet clear whether other commonly used payment methods such as other e-wallets, prepaid cards and mobile phone billing have anti credit card procedures that are robust enough to satisfy the regulator. So we could be looking at a future where the only choices are debit cards and Paypal.
Another thing to bear in mind about payment options is that deposits made with payment methods other than debit cards are often excluded from bonus offers.
No deposit bingo sites that truly give the opportunity to get something for nothing are very rare in 2022. Many of the top UK bingo sites have free bingo rooms for new players or even for all their players, but you will normally need to make a deposit first before you are allowed in. Even when a newbie free bingo room does not require a deposit, before you are allowed to play you will need to undergo the same age and ID verification process as you would if you did make a deposit, and the first step in the process is registering your card details.
The best UK bingo sites for big payouts are Virtue Fusion bingo sites such as Paddy Power Bingo and bet365 bingo; it’s quite common for bingo games on this network to have prize money of £1000 or more. Tombola is another bingo site that pays out a lot; as well as running special bingo games with five-figure prizes from time to time, they give out tens of thousands a pounds a week in prizes on their daily free game.
UK bingo sites that are licensed by the UK Gambling Commission have to undergo rigorous RNG testing on all their games as a condition of their licence and this ensures that when you play bingo at one of these sites, it’s not possible for the game to be rigged. The Return To Player of bingo games does vary though, in the case of games with a fixed prize that does not depend on ticket sales, and some of these games can be very poor value for players. For a more detailed discussion of this question check out our article on Online Bingo – Is It Fixed?
In online bingo, you don’t daub your numbers yourself and you don’t have to call bingo, so there is zero skill involved in the game itself and it’s 100% luck. The trick lies in knowing which bingo games to play when; for further information check out our guide on How To Increase Your Chances Of Winning At Bingo Online.
The best bingo site for you depends on what you want to get out of playing bingo and on what type of bingo game is your favourite. For example, Mecca Bingo has a huge selection of 90 ball bingo rooms but if that’s not your thing and you prefer 5 line bingo, Unibet Bingo may be a better choice. Our Best Bingo Sites page presents a shortlist of what we consider to be the best bingo site for UK players with a detailed discussion of the pros and cons of each.