Gambling, Stigma and Internet Bingo

In Great Britain many forms of gambling such as sportsbetting, bingo and slot machines are staples of British High Streets throughout the country. In the UK bingo does not carry the stigma associated with other forms of gambling. Most people consider bingo more of a social activity than gambling. Constance Chapple, a sociologist at the University of Nebraska, stated “Although gambling has largely maintained its deviant reputation, bingo, as a form of gambling, remains untainted labels of deviance.” Chapple says that society sees bingo as an acceptable form of gambling that has escaped the negative connotations associated with casino gambling. In the United States bingo has had a long association with churches, charities and fraternal groups.

In the latest British Gambling Preference survey most of those surveyed did not view the lottery or bingo as gambling. In the past bingo was played mainly by working class women and pensioners. The lack of stigma associated with bingo may help internet bingo operators in getting people to play bingo on the internet. Currently there are over 400 internet bingo sites competing for British players. Mark Griffiths, a professor of gambling studies at Nottingham Trent University says that the introduction of the national lottery in the UK had two major effects; it made gambling more socially acceptable and softened attitudes towards gambling. It also helped to de-masculinize gambling in the UK.

Griffiths points out that there has been little research done on gambling and most studies have been sociological in nature. Most gambling research has been conducted among small groups of people. Prior to 2000 most research showed that bingo was an activity enjoyed by working class women who attended games to socialize with friends and spend a night out in a safe environment. The low cost of bingo was also an attraction. Until the smoking ban was imposed in 2007 there appeared to be a revival of bingo in the UK. The smoking ban has a disastrous effect on bingo halls in the UK and dozens were forced to close. A survey taken at the time showed that about 63% of all bingo players were smokers.

Griffiths says that the smoking ban may have inadvertently led more people to play internet bingo at home where they could smoke freely. The latest British Gambling Preference survey showed that 9% of the UK population had played internet and/or live bingo in 2011. A new type of bingo player has emerged; those who only play bingo on the internet. Griffiths says that the internet bingo industry is benefiting from the lack of stigma associated with bingo. He also says that although women have been underrepresented on gambling websites bingo is changing that. For the near future the future looks bright for the internet bingo industry.