What To Look For At Online Bingo Sites
The welcome offer, the variety of bingo and slot games on site, the prize money, the number of ways to win, the player promotions, the community, the quality of the customer service, the design or something else, these are some of the things our players love. Let’s take a deeper dive into all of that!
- Bingo Software
- Welcome Offer
- Exclusive Bingo Rooms vs Networked Bingo Rooms
- Free and Penny Bingo
- Range of Games
- Fairness, Transparency and Trust
- Player Promotions
- Player Rewards
- Terms & Conditions
- Range of Payment Methods
- The X Factor
If you’ve never played online bingo before, you won’t be aware of how BIG 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 bingo 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 (like Entain’s) can’t; all Entain bingo sites are operated by Entain themselves. Some of the best bingo sites are powered by proprietary software!
A good welcome offer does not necessarily mean the biggest bonus. In fact, some welcome offers that do not include any bonus at all and instead give out free bingo tickets and/or slot spins (or give the player the opportunity to win them in a game of chance). Some bingo sites also have special free bingo rooms just for new players but this is getting less common in 2024.
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, are bascially equivalent to a bonus offer but with less choice about where you can use it).
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 (though not in slots) it is EXTREMELY 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 buying lots of tickets will have 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, they are reluctant to buy tickets. That means the site is in danger of going into a death spiral and getting 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! Although the prizes in a bingo room with thousands of players can be very large, the chance of actually winning anything is very small and this, too, makes players unhappy eventually as they feel they are not winning often enough. It can also be difficult to follow the chat in a very busy room as it scrolls past so quickly.
Good bingo sites manage increases in liquidity in their 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 – quite a different experience than you’ll have in most online bingo rooms.
Exclusive Bingo Rooms vs Networked Bingo Rooms
The more exclusive bingo rooms a site has, the better able it is to manage liquidity. Brand owners have no control over the number of players in networked bingo 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 which is not part of a network (but bigger than many networks). Most are somewhere in between and top bingo sites typically combine a number of network rooms with big prize money 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 an attached hosted chat room that is specific to that site only, whereas network rooms may not have any chat at all or if they do, it may be shared across the network.
Free and Penny Bingo
Playing bingo can get quite expensive if you buy the maximum number of tickets to each game (which can be as high as 120) and this where free and penny bingo can make the fun last much longer.
- In free bingo, registered players who are in the bingo room at the time can claim free tickets to a game which pays out small bingo bonus or cash prizes. A few bingo sites run hours of free bingo for all of their players every day whereas others have hardly any, or restrict it to players who have recently made a deposit or met a play requirement. And some bingo sites have no free bingo at all.
- In penny bingo, tickets are priced at 1p or 2p. Again, a few bingo sites have dedicated penny bingo rooms with cheap bingo running all day whereas others only run penny bingo at specified times or as part of special promotions. And some bingo sites have no tickets cheaper than 5p.
Both free and penny bingo rooms tend to be much busier than rooms where the tickets are more expensive and while this often makes for livelier chat it means you could be waiting a long time before you win anything.
Range of games
The range of games at an online bingo site is a major selling point and we don’t just mean bingo games.
The clear winners in this area 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.
- At tombola there’s more than 20 different types of bingo including Blocks, Morph, Paper and several others.
- Playtech bingo sites have Deal Or No Deal Bingo, Rainbow Riches Bingo, Cash Cubes Bingo, The Money Drop Bingo, Fluffy Favourites Bingo, Spirit Twister 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 themed on TV shows, Slingo Bingo and the Foxy Bingo exclusive Battle Royale Bingo.
- At Pragmatic Play there’s a Deal or No Deal style bingo game called Diamond Dazzle and the speed 90 ball variant Bingo Blast, plus 30 ball and 80 ball.
- Double Bubble Bingo and other Gamesys sites have 75 ball, 80 ball, 90 ball and playing card bingo.
- Dragonfish don’t do so well here as the only alternative to 75 ball and 90 ball bingo they offer is 52-5 bingo, and that only in one room.
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, as at Paddy Power. Pragmatic Play bingo sites also vary widely in the slots they offer. Progressive jackpots range from Eyecon slot games only to a huge selection including 7 figure jackpots such as Jackpot King, Dream Drop, Mega Moolah and WowPot. Another important aspect of slot game provision is how frequently new releases are added and this ranges from several times a week to hardly ever (the latter being at Dragonfish, another area where they are weak).
Many of the best bingo sites also have live casino game shows (including games like Mega Ball and Vegas Ball Bonanza that are extremely similar to bingo) and a few have other products such as a sportsbook and/or lottery betting.
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 three 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, especially if you can use biometric login, and most of the top UK bingo sites have one or the other or both.
- Pre-buy facilities. Here’s 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 when Dragonfish run one of their rare big games as they take place in a separate bingo room opened for ticket sales days or even weeks in advance.
- How easy it is to buy the number of tickets you want to buy. Unfortunately Dragonfish don’t do too well here either as the default purchase in many of their bingo rooms is 24 tickets.
Fairness, transparency and trust
There’s a lot of elements involved in this:
- 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. Playtech’s Spirit Twister bingo game handles this issue beautifully by only allowing 10 players per game, all of whom must buy 100 x 1p tickets, to compete for 5 line prizes (of course they are all quite small).
- Transparency is how clear the workings of the games are to players. In our opinion the clear winners here are Happy Tiger and Relax Gaming bingo as seen at Unibet Bingo and Bingo.com – the only platform2 where players can see which other players have 1TG (and which numbers they need) while the game is going on. In Relax Gaming’s innovative HexaBingo game you can even see everyone else’s cards and numbers throughout!
- Return To Player in bingo is often opaque (and always considerably lower than that of slot games). Tombola do well for transparency in this area because they state a minimum guaranteed RTP for each of their bingo games in the game help files – and also because their Britain’s Biggest Bingo game paid out more than a million pounds at 100% RTP.
- Return To Player in slot games is becoming more and more important an issue in 2024 ,as many popular games such as Starburst and Big Bass Bonanza now have a variable RTP that can be set by the operator. Slot game RTP has to be visible somewhere but often it is buried deep in the game help files. MrQ, bet365 bingo and Betfred Bingo all show slot game RTP in the lobby and also tend to have it set at or near the upper end of the range.
- Trust is also 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 (i.e. how safe your money is if the operator has financial issues) are also very important for trust and we expect them to become even more important to players in 2024.
- Most players never need to contact customer service, but if you do, you’ll appreciate a range of different ways to do so and a speedy response time. The Jumpman approach, whereby you can only contact them via email and are asked not to send any follow up emails, is unlikely to pass muster.
- Another important element of customer service is high standards in safer gambling and the UK now has an independent accreditation scheme, Safer Gambling Standard, which awards four levels of certification to operators.
- 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). It can be extremely frustrating, for example, to have ID documents rejected with no pointers as to why (as has been known to happen at Jumpman sites). We can expect the Gambling Commission to mandate changes to these procedures in 2024 and no doubt some bingo sites will be much better than others at implementing the changes without upsetting players.
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 players who don’t participate in chat.
- Some of us are lurkers and enjoy following the chat even though we don’t join in
- 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 at tombola chat is regarded as so important to the community that it has been enabled for those playing slots or instant win games as well as for bingo, whereas Jumpman bingo sites and many 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. Broadly speaking there are two types:
- Voted for by the players – even though there have been many, many instances of operators offering players an incentive to encourage them to vote, it still indicates that the players must be pretty happy with the site
- Judged by an independent panel of experts – as is usually the case for fair play, customer service or social responsibility awards
The best player promotions are absolutely not about redeposit offers (although those are nice too). 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 and 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 free slot tournaments (as found at Entain bingo and casino sites) can be just as enjoyable for players.
Quality as well as quantity is paramount when it comes to bingo promotions, and in the case of 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). The kind of thing you see these days, where there’s just one top prize across a massive network of sites, is pretty unappealing in comparison.
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 invitations to exclusive events like Sun Bingo’s All Star Hotel, or even something completely off the wall like the opportunity for your pet to appear in an episode of Emmerdale, as was once done at Gala Bingo.
In 2024, the vast majority of bingo sites have moved away from traditional tiered VIP schemes to more equitable player rewards systems where you don’t get a massive advantage for being at a higher level. This is because operators have to be careful that players do not feel pressurised into spending more than they are comfortable with or more than they can afford. For this reason, most player rewards these days are based solely on the previous day or previous week’s play with no need to keep any minimum level of spending up over time.
Terms & Conditions
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 in their terms and conditions:
- Caps on winnings
- Excessive wagering requirements
- Obstacles to withdrawals such as long processing times or fees
- Long lists of games (or bingo rooms) 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 somewhere they can 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 from bonus offers or imposes other restrictions such as a maximum stake size – again, all of this will be in the terms and conditions and we include it in the Key Information in our bingo reviews.
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
Note that we only cover bingo sites that have a UKGC licence and are for UK players. If you’re located in a different country such as the Netherlands you’ll need to visit a local website to discover where you can play online bingo there.
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 2023. Some 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 ; 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. And if you’re after a sense of community, you’ll want to pick a bingo site which has hosted chat.