What are the Differences Between US and UK Bingo ?

Bingo is a popular pastime in the United States and Great Britain. A significant portion of the population in both countries displays a real fondness for the game. In both countries the game is known as bingo but there are some significant differences. In the United States the traditional 75 ball version of the game is predominant while on Great Britain the 90 ball version is the most common version of the game. In former British colonies like Australia and New Zealand 90 ball bingo is the most popular bingo variant. Bingo is a huge industry in both countries and generated billions in revenues.

90 ball bingo, or ‘British Bingo,’ is the most popular game in the UK. This bingo variant is played using numbers between 1 and 90. The bingo cards are different and have a 5X5 grid. In the United States 75 ball bingo is the most popular game. 75 ball, or ‘American bingo,’ is also played on a card with a 5X5 grid. The game uses numbers between 1 and 75 and American bingo cards have the letters B-I-N-G-O at the top of the card. There is one free square in the center of the card. The numbers called will have to fit in a specific column; for example B-2.

The differences between British and American bingo started in the early 20th century. In Britain 90 ball bingo was introduced by the armed forced. British sailors in the Mediterranean sometimes played a 90 ball Italian game known as Tombola which bears a close resemblance to today’s 90 ball bingo games.  In the United States the modern version of bingo was adopted from an old carnival game called beano. A caller pulled numbered pieces of wood from a sack and beans were used to cover the cards. Edwin  Lowe, a toy salesman from New York, modified beano into the game we know today as bingo.

In Great Britain bingo gained popularity during the postwar years. In the 60’s gambling laws in Britain were relaxed and bingo halls sprouted up all over the country. Many old cinemas were converted into massive bingo halls capable of seating hundreds of players. There is a difference in player behavior in both nations. In the US bingo games tend to be competitive and intense. In Great Britain players have a more relaxed attitude and for British players socialization is more important than winning.

In the US bingo is still dominated by church groups and charities. In Britain commercial bingo is a huge industry. Internet bingo is also popular in the UK. Federal laws make it hard for Americans to play internet bingo but that may change very soon.