Newspaper Bingo – The Forerunner of Internet Bingo

Anyone who grew up in the UK during the 80’s probably remembers the newspaper bingo craze that swept the country. To boost flagging sales several newspapers launched bingo games in an attempt to boost sales and profits. Bingo numbers were printed in the daily papers and all players had to do to participate was to pick up some bingo cards at newsstands. Derek Jameson, editor of the Daily Star, was the first to introduce newspaper bingo to the UK. To compete in a circulation war Jameson launched a game where bingo cards were mailed to players who then had to check the Star for the daily bingo numbers and mark their cards. To win players were required to have a full house.

The games worked and many UK bingo fanatics made the early morning trek to the newsstand to pick up the morning edition. The game was an instant hit and soon other papers including the Daily Mirror and the Sun launched their own bingo games. Newspaper bingo hit its peak in 1984 when a million pound jackpot was announced. The Daily Express launched their ‘Who Wants to be a Millionaire?’ and advertised heavily on television. Even the venerable Times launched a bingo game designed to fit the paper’s image and readership.

After almost three decades in the bingo business many newspapers are finding themselves in financial trouble because of competition from online news sources. Many newspapers looked online for new revenue sources and launched their own internet bingo sites and games. The Sun now has its own internet bingo site and the Daily Star has partnered with Jackpotjoy. The Daily Mirror has joined bingo provider Cashcade and the competition between newspapers has moved online. Newspaper bingo has even caught the attention of the publisher of the New York Daily News Mort Zuckerman. In a recent interview with Forbes magazine Zuckerman was asked about the US ban on sports betting and bingo on newspaper websites. Zuckerman stated, “The fact is, if you look at England, a lot of their newspapers have bingo… they make a lot of money off it. It would save hundreds of newspapers in this country if they could do that.”

For US newspapers to offer internet bingo games there would have to be federal legislation re legalizing online gambling. Given the results of the 2010 midterm elections this does not seem likely. The new right wing majority in the house is not seen as sympathetic to gambling of any kind including internet bingo. As for the UK, what started as a game provided by newspapers is now a billion dollar a year business in the UK and growing.