How Bingo in America Compares with Bingo in the UK

British vs American BingoAmerica has a reputation for doing everything ‘bigger’ than us here in the UK; bigger prizes, bigger portion sizes, and bigger waistlines.

Well we started to wonder whether this was also true of bingo.

We know that, at a fundamental level, bingo is the same game in the UK as it is in America, but they do play a different version of the game over there as standard.

This has obvious knock-on effects such as the bingo tickets looking different, the bingo board looking different, and the ways to win varying, but this is just the surface level stuff.

If we look further than that though, how is the American bingo experience different to the experience in the UK? We are talking about the bingo halls, the way the session is run, how much players spend – all of that stuff.

We want to take everything into account and examine how an evening at bingo in the UK is different to an evening of bingo in the US of A, from top to bottom.

75-Ball Bingo vs 90-Ball Bingo

75 Ball Bingo TicketsLet’s get the most obvious difference out of the way first shall we?

You may already know that the go to bingo variation in America is 75-ball, not the 90-ball version of the game we refer over here.

The reason for this isn’t really known for sure, but as the game developed and started to become popular in different places around the world, the two variations came into being.

Once that had happened, the bingo crowd in each country got used to their own version of the game, and as we all know, trying to get one group of people to accept that a different group of people have had a better idea than them is nigh on impossible, so each country stuck to its’ bingo guns.

We have articles on 75-ball and on 90-ball bingo so you can read them for a full breakdown of how each game works if you don’t already know, but basically, aside from the different number of balls used, the layout of the bingo cards is different and so is the way wins can be formed, which makes 90-ball much faster paced than 75-ball.

One interesting addition that 75-ball has over 90-ball, is the ability to create interesting patterns on the cards, thanks to the way the card is laid out. Sometimes, a win is called once a pattern is complete rather than a line or a full house.

The Bingo Halls

USA Bingo Hall

Quite often in America, a bingo hall is part of a much larger entertainment complex; so you will find huge bingo halls inside casinos, for example.

They do exist in their own right though, although these standalone bingo halls tend to be smaller.

What all bingo halls in America have in common though, wherever they are, is they don’t have the same comfortable feel as the British bingo halls.

In the UK, many bingo halls are in old theatres or cinemas, so they can feel quite grand, and even those that are purpose built have often been designed with some sort of theme in mind.

Over in America though, the majority of bingo halls are in pretty stark characterless rooms, maybe even with hand drawn posters and decorations on the walls. It feels a lot less professional in terms of aesthetics, and the harsh strip lighting doesn’t help.

The table layout is another big difference too.

All American Bingo Hall
Credit: David Miller

Over here we tend to have small tables with 2-6 seats and a divider between you and the next table, so everyone has their own dedicated little space.

In the USA, in almost all bingo halls they have fold up tables laid out in very long lines along with either fold up chairs or benches. Nothing is fixed to the floor so again, it feels a bit more temporary.

The good thing about this is that players are more likely to engage with each other as you kind of have to sit next to a stranger at some point, so the social aspect is definitely there, and people will chat to you.

Lastly, smoking is still allowed in many bingo halls in the US, or they may even have smoking and non-smoking sections, so they will probably smell different too!

Bingo Tickets and Cards

USA Bingo TicketsAnother thing you will notice about American bingo halls is that the tables are absolutely full of clutter.

Well, the people sitting there wouldn’t call it clutter, it’s all their special dabbers and lucky charms and endless sheets of bingo tickets, but it’s certainly messier than here in the UK.

Although they have their own equivalent of the bingo bees that are used here in Britain, people are much more likely to also use paper tickets in America, and they buy them in bulk too.

Because of the way the 75-ball ticket is designed, Americans end up with large A3 size sheets of paper in different colours that hold 6 bingo tickets each, and these can take up a lot of space as players move from one game to the next.

4 on a Board Bingo GameFor this reason, clear trash bags are usually seen pinned between the tables every few seats so that players can get rid of used tickets and keep their workspace as tidy as possible.

There are also a lot more side games played in American bingo halls, such as 4 on a Board, which is a very cheap mini ticket containing just 4 numbers, along with a chance for an instant win, so you will see loads of these little click cards on the tables in American bingo halls.

There are all sorts of variations on this, 4 on a Board is just one example, but the point is that American bingo players tend to play more extra games than we do.

Food and Drink

Bingo Food and DrinkThere is less of a drinking culture in the US than there is in the UK, so while you might find bars located outside some of the bigger bingo halls attached to casinos and the like in America, those smaller independent halls are not likely to serve alcohol.

In fact, many of the smaller bingo halls don’t seem to sell anything consumable at all.

They may sell bingo dabbers but that’s often about it. Some may sell a limited range of snacks like fizzy pop and crisps, but it’s more of a tuck shop style operation than a café, and there usually won’t be any real food like the hot dogs and hunters chicken you can buy at your local Buzz.

People might bring their own drinks since a session lasts a few hours there just like it does here, but in general, it’s not treated as the same sort of ‘night out’ in American as it is here.

A British bingo fan is much more likely to make a night of it, with perhaps a meal before the games start and a few drinks after; that’s just not the case in most bingo halls in America.

Again, bingo halls that are part of bigger complexes buck this trend, but they are the exception rather than the rule, and even then, you will be mostly limited to a small café hatch and almost certainly no bar.

Booze and bingo is just not really a thing in America like it is over here in the UK.

Bingo Players

Winners World North Carolina
Credit: Winners World North Carolina

America is a massive country so the sort of people you find playing bingo will vary depending on where you are in the country, but on the whole, the player base is much more diverse than it is here in the UK.

People from all cultures and backgrounds turn up to play, and the halls are usually busier than they are here too.

We would say the ratio of men to women is similar, but if we had to choose, we would say that more younger men seem to play over in the US, often accompanying their mothers or wives.

It also comes across as though American players go to bingo to win too. Obviously we all want to win, but where a British bingo fan might go as much for the social aspect and the fun of it as the chance to win money, the American crowd seem to be there first and foremost for the chance to win some cash.

We have written an article on a few pretty hardcore players from America who share their bingo journey on Tiktok if you want to have a look at that to get a better idea.

Despite this strong desire to win, you will often hear bingo players who are sat close to each other but who don’t necessarily know each other, talking about the game they just missed out on, or congratulating each other after a win.

They’re a pretty friendly bingo bunch over in the USA for the most part.

Bingo Staff

Bingo Security GuardIn Britain, the staff at the bingo halls are considered friends by many of the regular players. As we discovered in our Interview with a Bingo Caller, bingo hall staff may help with a customer’s personal issues, or lend a friendly ear if a customer is going through a hard time, and even attend their funerals.

In America, this relationship is much more transactional.

That’s not to say the staff are unfriendly, or won’t strike up a friendship with the odd regular customer, but they don’t have the same nurturing side as they do over here.

The bingo callers don’t tend to be quite as entertaining either, in fact, bingo in general doesn’t have the same hint of camp fun in America as it often does here.

One thing you might find in American bingo halls that you 100% will not find over in the UK though, is armed security guards.

That’s right, gun toting tough guys patrol the bingo halls in the US, which is much less shocking to American bingo players because guns are a much more common sight over there than they are here, but still, can you imagine armed security guards at your local Mecca?