If you are primarily an online bingo player, then you may not even have heard of the National Bingo Game, let alone know what it is or how it works.
For anyone who frequents their local bingo hall though, it will be very familiar to you, and probably one of the main reasons you go to the bingo club in the first place.
Everybody knows that the prizes at bingo aren’t as eye catching as they are in other gambling games. Us players don’t mind that because money isn’t the main reason for playing really, but we certainly wouldn’t complain if the game remained the same but the prizes were bigger, would we?
Well, the National Bingo Game is about the biggest game you can win in the world of bingo, offering a top prize of £50,000 as well as smaller prizes and club prizes.
But what is it, and how does it work? You online only bingo fans might even be wondering if it is possible to play online, which is a valid question, and one that actually has a slightly ambiguous answer.
How the National Bingo Game Works
For most of a bingo session, players will be up against the other people in their bingo club, playing for small but nice prizes like £50 or £100.
However, every bingo session also includes the National Game, where all the clubs around the country who are taking part (which is most of them) are linked together, and play the same numbers for the same big prize.
This one is a 90 ball, full house only game, so there are no prizes for getting a line or two lines.
One caller at one club is nominated to call the game, and their calls are broadcast to every bingo hall in the country as the players mark off their cards, until a claim is made, at which point the local caller in the same bingo hall as the winner stops the game and the numbers are checked.
So it’s just one big massive game the whole country play together.
Now obviously, with bingo the more people that play the bigger the prize, so the National Game has a lot of prize money to be won.
The prize breakdown works like this:
- £50,000 – Full house in 16 calls or less
- £1,000 – Full house in 20 calls or less
- £100 – Full house in 24 calls or less
There are also club prizes that vary depending on where you are playing, and these are given out to the first person in each club to get a full house once the linked game is over.
As you can understand, this is the highlight of many player’s bingo session, because the potential for large payouts is very exciting and there is an extra chance to win something even after the main game is over.
You might think that no one ever wins the big money, but that top prize was won 55 times in 2023, which is more than once per week, and that was a lean year by comparison too.
Can You Play the National Bingo Game Online?
You can actually, according to the player rules anyway.
That said, you will struggle to find anywhere online that actually offers this as an option.
Almost all bingo clubs are part of a big chain these days, all of which have their own online bingo offering as well. Even those that aren’t part of a chain tend to run an online bingo site and casino these days, very few don’t.
However, it’s not really in their interests for you to play the National Bingo Game online.
Why? Well, one major reason the clubs don’t want you to play online, is because the National Bingo Game is one of the biggest draws that bring people into the bingo clubs in the first place.
If everyone starts playing online instead, bingo halls will be empty and more of them will close down, which wouldn’t be good for anyone especially the businesses.
Running a bingo club is expensive so they need a constant stream of people through the door, keeping the atmosphere alive and the games, slot machines, bars and cafes busy. Keeping the National Game as a ‘venue only’ experience gives them more of a USP.
In other words, the rules allow the National Bingo Game to be played online, but to my knowledge, no bingo operators have taken advantage of that rule.
How Many People Play the National Bingo Game?
It is estimated that around 3 million people play bingo regularly in the UK – that means twice a week or more – however, that number probably includes online players as well.
Instead, let’s calculate this in a different way.
There are between 120 and 180 clubs taking part in the National Game, so if we split that down the middle we get 150 bingo clubs taking part in each game on average.
How many people regularly turn up to your bingo club? At mine it’s usually a few hundred maybe in the morning session, more in the evening. Some clubs are bigger than others but most hold somewhere between 500 and 1,000 people, not that they are usually full.
Let’s be optimistic and say there are 500 people playing at each club.
- 150 x 500 = 75,000
So a very rough estimate would be that 75,000 people play the National Bingo Game each time, although this number will obviously fluctuate from one game to the next.
This doesn’t account for the number of tickets sold though.
The National Bingo game is played twice a day, every day, except on Christmas day, so that’s 728 games each year, which means that even if every player only bought one ticket (you can buy more) then 54,600,000 tickets are sold for the game each year – minimum.
That’s a lot of bingo!