Bingo is a game where participants listen to an announcement of a series of numbers, marking these off on a sheet of numbered squares. The first player to mark off all the numbers, and inform the caller, is the winner. In recent years, technological innovations have changed how bingo is offered, for example through the introduction of personal electronic tablets – tablets loaded with electronic games, and online bingo.
In Victoria, 2.64 per cent of the adult population plays bingo once a year. Players are disproportionately women, older, Aboriginal, and poorer. Around one-in-ten Victorians who have been identified as problem gamblers play bingo.
This report explores how people from disadvantaged communities experience bingo and how harms can be minimised for individuals and communities. The report presents findings of a qualitative study examining the experience and impact of bingo on three Victorian communities where bingo is relatively popular and economic and social disadvantage are common:
- Aboriginal people in Gippsland and East Gippsland
- Pacific migrants in Sunraysia
- Older people with fixed incomes in Melbourne.
Drawing on interviews with 53 bingo players from across the three communities, as well as 13 stakeholders with professional knowledge of bingo in Victoria, the report made a number of findings.
Experiences of bingo
- Comparing the three communities, Aboriginal people were more commonly introduced to bingo as children, with Pacific participants also growing up playing bingo.
- Bingo is a site of community connection and pleasure. Most players valued bingo because of its social nature, as well as the fact it offered a chance to win money, and provided cognitive stimulation and escape.
- Most players, particularly older players in Melbourne, felt that bingo was harm-free.
- Bingo is provided in many different forms across Victoria, only a proportion of which are covered by legislation.
- Regulated bingo is often played in large centres, which increasingly offer large jackpots. These centralise wins, meaning fewer people get more winnings.
- The amount of money people spent to play varied widely, from $0.50 for a book of 10 games, to $1200 to attend a ‘package’ session.
Bingo and other forms of gambling
- Bingo is commonly offered in close proximity to electronic gaming machines (EGMs). While bingo centres cannot provide EGMs, gambling centres with EGMs can provide bingo. Research suggests that bingo acts as a ‘loss leader’, channelling bingo players to play EGMs at venues where they are available.
Service system responses
- Participants who experienced harm did not access help from formal services, but instead approached family members.
- There is limited evidence about good practice in preventing and treating gambling harm experienced by bingo players.
Maltzahn, K, Whiteside, M, Thompson, A, Kirirua, J, Cox, J, Lee, H & MacLean, S 2021, Lucky for some: bingo in Victoria, Victorian Responsible Gambling Foundation, Melbourne.