Bingo has been played in some form or another since the 16th century, when Italians developed it as a fun lottery variation.
This game has since become very popular in various countries, including Argentina, Brazil, Canada, France, Romania, the UK, and the US.
One reason why people enjoy playing bingo is because it offers entertaining gambling action without being too complicated. All you need to do is listen/watch for the numbers that are called and make sure you mark them on your card.
Another fun thing about bingo is that the games offer big prizes relative to the entry fees. This is especially the case in larger games where only a few players get paid.
But while there are good points to bingo, I also see plenty of downsides to this game. In fact, there are several cons that make bingo worth avoiding.
I’m going to discuss each of these drawbacks below and also cover alternative games that you should consider instead.
Drawbacks to Bingo
Little Social Interaction During Games
One problem with bingo is that you have little interaction with other players while games are taking place. Try talking to someone in the middle of a bingo game, and you’ll probably get a dirty look.
The reason being is that players must concentrate on the game at hand so they don’t miss any numbers.
This isn’t to say that you and another player absolutely can’t talk during the game. But it’s bad strategy because you’ll likely miss a couple numbers during the conversation.
What’s more is that players around you will probably get annoyed, since you’re distracting them.
Of course, you can always chat with fellow players in between games. But this is the only time when it’s appropriate to talk during live bingo.
You can play online bingo, where it’s easier to chat during the action. In fact, you can even use an option that auto-selects your numbers as they’re called out.
But the problem here is twofold:
1 – Online bingo only allows interaction via chat boxes
2 – Internet bingo is even less social than live games
If you’re looking for games that are truly social, then visit a casino and try baccarat, blackjack, or craps.
Heavy Concentration Required for a Non-Skilled Game
Again, online bingo rooms offer a nice feature where the software will auto-select your numbers. This is good for occasions where you want bingo action, yet can’t devote 100% of your attention to the matter.
Live bingo, on the other hand, doesn’t offer the same convenience. And if you’re not paying attention to the game, you can miss numbers and lower your chances of winning.
This is another problem with bingo, in that it doesn’t feature much skill, yet still requires your attention.
The only challenge is making sure you hear the numbers and mark them on your card.
If I’m going to play a game that requires little skill, then I don’t want to fixate on the action. Slot machines, roulette, and craps are all good in this regard because they’re non-skilled games where you don’t need full concentration.
Little Bingo Game Variation or Innovation
Bingo hasn’t changed much since 1929 when New York toy salesman Edwin S. Lowe helped introduce the game to the masses. It still involves listening to called numbers and marking them with a dauber.
While this is nice from a classic sense, it also shows that bingo has undergone little innovation since its earlier days.
The biggest choice that you have in live bingo involves picking between the 75- and 90-ball games. The main difference is that 90-ball bingo takes longer to conclude.
Online bingo is the only place where any true innovation is going on. Here, you’ll find jackpot games, different themes, and multi-game cards.
These variations are nice for serious bingo enthusiasts. But they don’t begin to touch upon what slot machines offer.
The slots world has numerous themes, countless games, 3D graphics, bonus rounds, various wild symbols, and other fun features.
I’m not saying that every casino game must match slots in terms of innovation. But when comparing slot machines to another unskilled game like bingo, the variety gap is immense.
Few Casinos Offer Bingo
The casino industry hasn’t embraced bingo like it has many other forms of gambling.
Maybe this is due to bingo’s American history as a church fundraiser. But whatever the case, you just won’t find this game at many land-based or online casinos.
There are exceptions, such as Foxwoods Resort Casino (CT) and San Manuel Indian Bingo & Casino (CA), which seat up to 4,000 and 2,500 players, respectively. You can also find internet gaming sites that are dedicated entirely to bingo.
But this game isn’t nearly as available as baccarat, blackjack, roulette, slot machines, video poker, and a number of other casino games.
The Old-People Stereotype
I can’t think of any form of gambling that’s less cool in America than bingo. This game is commonly stereotyped as one played by old ladies in churches and community centers.
Churches and schools commonly offer bingo as a fundraiser. And while the proceeds go to a good cause, it’s usually older people who participate in these events.
As a result, many younger people would rather risk their money on something with a cooler reputation, like blackjack, daily fantasy sports, poker, or sports betting.
Bingo doesn’t carry this reputation in every country. For example, British people of all ages enjoy this game.
But the old-people stereotype is something that prevents younger generations from playing bingo in the US.
Bingo drawings can pay one or more winners, but even in the case of multiple winners, few people win in a single drawing.
Instead, the majority of players go empty handed by the time the last winner yells “bingo.” This means that bingo is similar to slot machines, keno, and video poker in terms of volatility.
Volatility relates to the chances of you winning a prize with each bet. The more volatile a game is, the less likely your bet is to come through.
Slots and the lottery are notoriously risky because their payout structure is top-heavy. Bingo is the same way, given that only a handful of people win per drawing.
If you’re somebody who has a small bankroll and/or likes getting frequent wins, then bingo is definitely a game to avoid.
Bingo Has a High House Edge
One more reason why you should consider quitting bingo is because your long-term chances of winning are low.
The few casinos that offer bingo typically have around a 10% house advantage. Contrast this to the following games, which give you a much better opportunity to win:
Video poker = 0.46% house edge (9/6 Jacks or Better)
Blackjack = 0.5% to 2.0% (varies by table rules)
Baccarat = 1.06% (banker bet)
French roulette = 1.35%
Craps = 1.36% (don’t pass line)
Pai Gow Poker = 1.46%
European roulette = 2.70%
Let It Ride = 3.51%
The bingo house edge only gets worse when you’re playing in a fundraiser. Given that these are held for a good cause, the organization staging the games takes a big cut.
I don’t have a problem with churches and other worthy causes beating bingo players more often. But then again, I also don’t want to risk too many funds in these games, either.
What Games Should You Play Instead of Bingo?
Anybody who enjoys bingo likely appreciates number-based games with little skill involved. Therefore, any suggested alternatives should include these elements.
Below, you can see my 5 recommendations of what bingo players should try. I’ve also listed keno as an option, although this comes with conditions.
1 – Slot Machines
Slots are my top pick for a bingo alternative because slot machines share similarities with bingo while still offering notable differences.
The similarities include:
Little skill involved
Top-heavy prize structure
Different themes (like online bingo)
Little social interaction
The key difference, though, is that slot machines offer much more in terms of games and features.
You can literally find thousands of different slots games in both land-based and online casinos. Among these games are dozens of interesting themes that collectively appeal to everybody.
The features are what really impress me about slot machines, because you can look forward to unique bonus rounds and different wild symbols.
Long story short, slots are far more entertaining than just daubing a card when your numbers are called.
2 – Roulette
The reason why I put roulette on here is because it’s a number-based game that doesn’t involve any true skill.
The only strategy in roulette is choosing games with the lowest house edge. This means that you want to play French roulette (1.35% house edge) and European roulette (2.70%) over American roulette (5.26%).
Roulette is similar to bingo in that you’re hoping for the ball to land on specific numbers. For example, a high/low bet sees you wager on whether the ball will land on numbers ranging from 1 to 18 or 19 to 36.
One distinct advantage that roulette has over bingo is the ability to choose your volatility. Roulette offers a variety of bets that differ greatly in terms of odds.
Here are some examples from European roulette:
Single number – 36:1 odds, 35:1 payout
Split – 17.5:1 odds, 17:1 payout
Column – 2.08:1 odds, 2:1 payout
Dozen – 2.08:1 odds, 2:1 payout
Red/black – 1.06 odds: 1:1 payout
High/low – 1.06 odds: 1:1 payout
These varying odds let players decide the game’s volatility. If you want to win frequently, then choose even-money bets like red/black and high/low.
Bingo doesn’t give you this option and is instead stuck in high volatility.
3 – Craps
Yet another fun number-based casino game is craps. But this differs from both bingo and roulette in that you have the added element of rolling dice.
Craps involves betting on a certain number or combination of numbers. And some wagers take multiple roles to be decided.
Here’s an example using the popular pass line bet:
Wins on the “come out,” or first roll of a new round, when 7 or 11 is tossed
Loses on the come out roll when a 2, 3, or 12 is rolled
Any other number (4, 5, 6, 8, 9, 10) establishes a point
The shooter must roll the point number before 7 for your pass line bet to win
Pass line pays 1:1
This bet features 251:244 true odds
Craps gives everybody a chance to roll the dice. And it feels good when you’re holding the dice in your hand and have control of the situation.
Of course, craps is random, just like bingo. The key difference is that you can choose bets which give you a stronger chance to win.
The four best wagers include:
Pass line = 1.41% house edge
Come = 1.41%
Don’t pass line = 1.36%
Don’t come = 1.36%
You can also back these bets with “odds,” which don’t have a house edge. Instead, these pay at true odds and can be placed behind your pass line or don’t pass line bets.
4 – Video Poker
Video poker is the one exception on this list in terms of skill.
You actually need a great deal of skill to achieve perfect payback.And some bingo players will appreciate having to learn this strategy.
I put video poker on this list because it offers big prizes and high volatility, just like bingo.
You can lower the volatility by choosing games with more small payouts, like Jacks or Better. But at the same time, you’ll always have a chance to win the royal flush jackpot (4,000 coins) in any video poker game.
You may ultimately find that you enjoy using skill to boost your payback. At worst, video poker can be a nice skill-based alternative to bingo.
5 – Lottery
Lotteries relate very closely to bingo because you’re hoping that your numbers are drawn. But one key difference is that you also have the option to choose your own numbers.
Some bingo halls let you pick which card you want, but it’s not like players stare at every single number before making their selection.
Lotteries, in contrast, only see you pick five or six numbers. This makes it much easier to place selections based on your lucky numbers.
It’s also worth noting that you can play scratch-off tickets, too. These are a fun lottery variation where you scratch the opaque covering off cards to reveal symbols and/or numbers.
Optional – Keno
I put keno as optional because it’s too close to bingo for my tastes. Furthermore, the house edge is sometimes higher than bingo.
Keno sees you purchase cards or tickets and pick your desired numbers. The game determines the amount of numbers you can select, but the range usually consists of 1-10 numbers
Choosing fewer numbers gives you a stronger chance to win. But you need to pick more numbers if you want to play for larger prizes.
The one difference between bingo and keno is that the latter lets you select your own numbers, along with the volatility/prizes you’re comfortable with.
Other than this, keno doesn’t offer much that’s different than bingo.
Choosing gambling games is all a matter of preference. And you may find some good qualities in bingo.
But I think that bingo has too many downsides to hang with the most popular casino games.
One of the biggest things I don’t like about bingo is how much concentration is needed for a game with little skill. I prefer a nice division between skill-based and non-skilled play.
Another major drawback is the combo of bingo’s high volatility and high house edge. Not only will you win infrequently, but you’ll also be a bigger long-term loser than with many casino games.
The fact that bingo is stereotyped as an old-people’s game in America doesn’t help matters any.
Luckily, there are plenty of suitable alternatives if you’re looking for something beyond bingo. Slot machines, craps, roulette, video poker, and lotteries are all close to bingo, while offering improved elements.
No matter what you choose, I suggest trying any of these alternatives over pouring money into bingo’s high house advantage.
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