Is bingo British or American?

Bingo has both British and American versions with distinct variations.

Bingo in Britain

Introduction to British bingo

Bingo, often dubbed as the nation’s favourite pastime, has deep roots in the heart of the UK. It started as a simple lottery game and transformed into a phenomenon that’s loved by millions. Britain’s love affair with bingo isn’t just about winning prizes; it’s about community, history, and tradition.

Evolution and variations of British bingo

Originally introduced as “Housey-Housey” during World War II by the armed forces, bingo underwent significant transformation once it hit the British shores. By the 1960s, commercial bingo halls became widespread, and the game we recognize today began taking shape.


  • 90-Ball Bingo: Predominantly played in the UK, this version features a ticket with three rows and nine columns.
  • 80-Ball Bingo: A modern take on the classic, designed specifically for online players. It’s played on a 4×4 grid with a different colour assigned to each column.
  • 50-Ball Bingo: A quick-paced version with fewer numbers, making it perfect for those looking for a swift game.

The cultural significance of bingo in the UK

In the UK, bingo is more than just a game; it’s a cherished tradition. Bingo halls, once the epicentre of many communities, became places where people met, socialized, and celebrated. It’s also been an essential element in bridging generational gaps, as grandparents, parents, and children often enjoy the game together. The British Bingo Association reports that thousands of players frequent halls weekly, proving its undying popularity.

Famous British bingo halls and traditions

  • Mecca Bingo: A household name, Mecca has been a pivotal figure in shaping the bingo culture in the UK. Their halls, adorned with art deco designs, have been operational since the 1960s.
  • Gala Bingo: Another giant in the UK bingo scene, Gala offers a fusion of traditional and digital, bringing in a new wave of bingo enthusiasts.
  • Bingo Lingo: A modern twist to the traditional game, Bingo Lingo incorporates music, dance, and lots of energy, making it a hit among the younger generation.


  • Unique Call-Outs: British bingo is known for its whimsical and rhyming call-outs like “two little ducks, 22” and “knock at the door, number 4”.
  • Eyes Down: A phrase signalling the start of the game, and a moment of intense concentration.
  • Lucky Seats: Many regular players swear by their ‘lucky seats’ and often arrive early to claim their favourite spot.

The Differences Between American and British Bingo

Bingo in America

Introduction to American bingo

Bingo has firmly embedded itself in the fabric of American culture.  With church fundraisers to massive bingo halls in Las Vegas, bingo holds a special place in the heart of many Americans.

Differences between British and American bingo

While the essence of bingo remains constant across the pond, there are distinct differences in the way Brits and Americans play the game:

Game Structure:

  • 75-Ball Bingo: This is the standard version in America, played on a 5×5 grid with the central square typically a free space. The columns are labeled B-I-N-G-O.

Calling Out:

  • American bingo lacks the playful rhymes of its British counterpart. Numbers are typically called with the letter of the column followed by the number, like “B-2” or “N-35”.

Winning Patterns:

  • In the US, it’s not just about lines or full houses. Players often aim for specific patterns like the four corners, a plus sign, or even letters of the alphabet.

The cultural significance of bingo in the US

Bingo in the US isn’t merely a pastime; it’s a communal event. Church basements, school fundraisers, and dedicated bingo halls have made the game a cornerstone of community interactions. Moreover, bingo has found its way into American holidays, with special games on occasions like Thanksgiving or Christmas. The National Bingo Night is a testament to its undying popularity, bringing the game to national television.

Famous American bingo venues and traditions

  • Foxwoods Resort Casino: Located in Connecticut, it boasts one of the largest bingo halls globally, accommodating thousands of players.
  • San Manuel Indian Bingo & Casino: Situated in California, this venue is renowned for its massive jackpots and grand events.
  • Bingo Cruises: A unique American phenomenon where enthusiasts can enjoy their favorite game while sailing the seas.


  • Daubers: These are special markers used to mark off numbers on the cards, coming in various colors and designs.
  • Bingo Lingo: While different from the UK, American bingo has its own set of terminologies like “Under the B” or “Under the O”.
  • Jackpot Games: Many venues in the US host special jackpot nights, where the stakes are high, and the rewards even higher.

bingo in the US

Key Differences Between British and American Bingo

Number of balls used

In the realm of bingo, the number of balls used plays a crucial role in defining the game’s pace and strategy.

  • British Bingo: The most popular version in the UK is the 90-ball bingo. As the name suggests, it employs 90 unique balls, each corresponding to a number on the player’s ticket.
  • American Bingo: The standard game in the US is the 75-ball bingo. This version uses 75 balls, and the tickets are structured differently, aligning with the game’s format.

Terminology and callouts

Words and phrases lend a distinct flavor to each version of the game, making them unique to their region.

  • British Callouts: Known for their rhyming and whimsical nature, British bingo callouts add a touch of fun to the game. Examples include “two little ducks, 22” or “knock at the door, number 4”. Delving deeper into the history of British bingo callouts reveals a tapestry of cultural references and playful humor.
  • American Callouts: These are more straightforward. Numbers are announced with the letter of the column followed by the digit, like “B-2” or “N-35”. While it might not have rhymes, the directness ensures clarity and speed.

Format and rules of the game

The game’s structure defines its pace, challenge level, and appeal to its audience.

  • British Format: Typically played with 90 balls, the ticket consists of three rows and nine columns. Players aim to mark off numbers, striving to achieve one line, two lines, or a full house.
  • American Format: The 75-ball version uses a 5×5 grid ticket with the central square usually deemed a free space.

Bingo’s Influence on Popular Culture

Bingo in movies and TV shows

Bingo isn’t just a pastime; it’s become a staple in visual storytelling, providing an apt backdrop for various scenes.

  • Movies: Films like “Bingo Long Traveling All-Stars & Motor Kings” and “King of the Bingo Game” have showcased bingo in different lights, from comedic to dramatic. It’s not just about the game but the atmosphere, the tension, and the characters that revolve around it.
  • TV Shows: Popular series such as “Better Call Saul” and “The Simpsons” have had episodes centered around bingo, highlighting the game’s tension, fun, and communal feel. The varied portrayal across different shows indicates its adaptability and universal appeal.


Famous celebrities who love bingo

You might be surprised by the number of celebrities who share a fondness for this game of chance.

  • Catherine Zeta-Jones: The Oscar-winning actress has a well-documented love for bingo.
  • Russell Crowe: Before making it big in Hollywood, Russell Crowe was a bingo caller. He admits to having a soft spot for the game, given his early connections with it.
  • Robbie Williams: The famous singer is known to host charity bingo events, combining his love for the game with his passion for philanthropy.

Diving deeper into celebrity bingo enthusiasts reveals a world where Hollywood glamour meets this age-old game.

Influence on literature and other art forms

  • Literature: Several novels and short stories have used bingo halls as settings or the game as a pivotal plot point, reflecting life’s unpredictability and chance.
  • Theatre: Plays like “Bingo! The Winning Musical” have brought the excitement of the game onto the stage, combining the thrill of live performance with the unpredictability of bingo.
  • Art Installations: Artists have used bingo cards, daubers, and the game’s aesthetics to craft thought-provoking installations, reflecting society, chance, and the human desire to win.

This broad influence underscores bingo’s timeless charm and its ability to resonate across different mediums.

What’s the primary difference between British and American bingo?

The primary difference lies in the number of balls used; British bingo uses 90 balls, while American bingo uses 75 balls.

How did bingo get its name in America?

It was initially called "Beano" in the US but was renamed "Bingo" after an enthusiastic exclamation during a game.

How does the callout style differ between the two versions?

British bingo uses rhyming callouts like "two little ducks, 22", while American bingo uses a direct column-letter and number, e.g., "B-2".

What are the typical patterns players aim for in American bingo?

Players aim for specific patterns such as lines, four corners, letters, or special designs.

Which celebrity used to be a bingo caller before becoming famous?

Russell Crowe was a bingo caller before he achieved Hollywood fame.

How has bingo been represented in movies and TV shows?

Bingo has been showcased in various movies and TV shows, ranging from comedic settings like in "The Simpsons" to more dramatic portrayals in films like "King of the Bingo Game".

Are there any theatre productions related to bingo?

Yes, plays such as "Bingo! The Winning Musical" have brought the game's excitement to the theatrical stage.

In terms of cultural significance, how does bingo play a role in the UK?

In the UK, bingo is more than just a game; it's a cherished tradition and a communal event, serving as a focal point for community interactions and bridging generational gaps.
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