Okay, so by now you should have all heard about this ‘fast food’ style phenomenon called online bingo. Interested? Want to know what it tastes like? Slightly afraid you might become addicted to the flavour and so you are staying well clear?

Well, let me give you a bit more food for thought. It may help you decide that online bingo is a tempting dish, and if you do not play immediately you will enter a kind of spasmodic epilepsy, cured only by the sound of a voice in the distant bingo halls calling ‘BINGO’. Or it may confirm your initial view that online bingo is for those with an appetite for loneliness, a craving for bankruptcy and a hunger for the monotonous.

Fortunately online bingo is none of these things.

For many people, bingo is a chance to meet new friends, to have a bit of fun and to spend money on something, in their spare time, which they feel they get a return from, whether emotionally for financially.

Of course, a return financially is highly unlikely because the odds are stacked against you, right? Or are they? Current bingo software is coded to deliver a return to the bingo operator of a specific percentage. Current research shows that percentage to be around 30-35%. That means for every £1 you spend, the bingo site will keep around 35 pence for operating costs and profits. The rest will go into the jackpot as prize money for each game with a percentage towards a progressive jackpot. And of course, it does not benefit a bingo site to keep most of the money for themselves, otherwise their players will soon realise that no-one is winning, their prizes will become small, the dish has gone cold, and the hunger for a different bingo site grows rapidly.

So to ensure that you are playing on a reputable site and one which delivers the right ingredients for a rewarding and tasteful experience, look on the homepage for a logo which refers to a Gaming Commission or Game Auditors, such as Thawte, or that the site is closely associated with GamCare. Also try and play on a site licensed within the European Union, for example Gibraltar, which is highly regulated. You can also tell if a site is paying out regularly by the numbers of people online against the level of the jackpots for each game. On first glance, a reasonable jackpot, with a good number of players, equates to a popular and successful site with good payout rates. A good place to start is on a site which is part of a network of bingo sites.

The odds of winning a bingo game depend on how many players are playing at a given time. But for everyone playing you can be sure of one thing – somebody will win and that someone could be you. There are sites that may use unscrupulous marketing ploys to tempt you to part with your money. Promotions you should be wary of are the ones like ‘win £100,000 jackpot in under 40 balls’. The odds of winning this kind of amount in under 40 balls, equate to about 20 million to one. You have more chance of winning the national lottery. Your best option is to keep it simple and keep it realistic. Don’t follow these types of outrageous promotions. No company is going to give away that kind of money in a hurry.

But we all know that the odds are stacked against us, right? Yet both the offline and online bingo markets are growing at an enormous pace. A recent survey showed that of the 3 million plus land-based bingo players in the UK, around 50,000 of these now play online bingo. Around 2000 land based people play bingo online every night, bringing approximate monthly tickets sales to over £10 million.

So is playing online bingo another true form of gambling addiction, or is it just another way of feeding our fast-food like lifestyles, with the need for instant satisfaction and immediate fulfilment before we move onto the next fad?

Psychologists suggest that the internet in itself is known to be addictive and presents particular problems for those who may suffer from a gambling addiction. However, recent research by Ms Winstone (a Southampton University psychologist) shows that it can improve reactive mental abilities in all ages.

In some ways playing bingo is no different to playing the national lottery or having a flutter at the races. Granny used to play bingo and to call granny a gambler seems ludicrous. But the national lottery or the bookies are simple forms of gambling, and is bingo really any different.

Always the odds are stacked against you but yet people still place bets or huddle around the lottery TV shows, fingers crossed in one hand and lottery tickets in the other.

And the demographic is changing too – with 90% of online bingo players now below the age of 50. So whereas before, the bingo organisations would target granny’s hard earned pension, operators are now targeting a much younger and broader internet savvy audience, looking for a new way of feeding us instant ‘fast-food’ like entertainment in an ever evolving internet dependant world.

So while the average household is spending £20 per week on fast-food (National Statistics survey) the fundamental reasons why people like to play online bingo are the same reasons why you and I may enter a Chinese Takeaway on a Friday night – the need for a speedy response to a craving, a desire for instant satisfaction, and a longing for a taste that leaves you wanting more.

o before you lick your lips and tantalize your taste buds with the delights of online bingo, remember that it is to many a form of gambling and to others a form of entertainment. Make of it what you will but enjoy the taste while it lasts… you will certainly be back for more!

By Morgan Collins