Like most gambling games, bingo is a game of chance. However, it's slightly different from something like roulette because bingo players can increase their chances of winning.
To do this, a player can purchase more cards – for example, if you are playing in a game with nine other players, each of who buys one card, then your odds of winning are 1 in 10. However, if you were to purchase 11 bingo cards, your odds would increase to 10 in 20.
Players can boost their chances of winning, particularly if they play on a site which tells them how many cards there are in total, as this gives them the chance to accurately estimate their odds.
But with all this in mind, how does this affect bingo jackpots?
The way a bingo jackpot is calculated depends largely on the type of game being played. First of all, we have the type of bingo to consider: in 75 ball bingo, there is a 5 x 5 grid and players can win by generating predetermined patterns, whereas, in 90 ball bingo, they have to make lines.
In 75 ball bingo, there's usually only one winner – the first person who manages to complete an approved pattern – however, in 90 ball bingo, there are at least three prizes, which increases your chances of winning but makes the jackpot smaller.
Generally speaking, in a standard game of bingo, the jackpot is calculated based on the number of players and the price of the tickets, or there can be a guaranteed prize aka a seed amount.
However, there are also other kinds of jackpots:
As mentioned above, the fixed jackpot is always available, no matter how many times players win it. To win this type of jackpot in a 90 ball game, players need to get a full house within a specified number of balls; but in a 75 ball game, players claim the jackpot when they meet the specified patterns.
In a fixed jackpot, the winnings are split equally between every winning player. If you’re playing online, your account will be instantly credited.
Progressive jackpots, on the other hand, have the potential to be far bigger. Casino operators set the funds each day, for example at midnight, and decide the jackpots depending on the ticket sales on the previous day.
So the good news is, the more tickets that players buy, the bigger the jackpot will be, but the bad news is that the jackpot is reset once the prize has been won.
Winning this type of jackpot requires players to get a full house in a specified number of balls. In a 75 ball or “patterned” game, players can only claim with a coverall win that meets the specified ball count.
An alternative form of a progressive jackpot, the community jackpot distributes winnings. A certain percentage of the prize money will be paid to the players who actually triggered the jackpot, while the remaining amount is distributed to players who have bought tickets in the winning game.
We could argue that this is a slightly fairer method of play if you’re in it as a team player! The split can vary – for example, the player whose ticket triggers the jackpot may also receive a portion of the community pot which is either an equal share or relative to the total amount of tickets bought.
The jackpot is calculated slightly differently with this one – side games with progressive jackpots will reach their peak once a day, again, around midnight. However, the jackpot is determined by the amount contributed by the operator, rather than being based on stakes within the game.
Like any gambling operator, online bingo is a business – to continue offering a great service to players, they need to make a profit! This means that a portion of the ticket price will go back into the business rather than being distributed directly to players.
The difference in the amount a bingo operator takes depends on the size of the business – you’ll find that prize winnings may be larger on older and more established websites, whose business will be significantly larger. This means that they can benefit from economies of scale; larger businesses can afford to take as little as 2 to 3% of ticket prices, while some operators may be forced to charge up to 75% to turn a profit.
If you prefer to play bingo in a bingo hall, you may find that ticket prices are higher or prize winnings are smaller. This is due to the nature of the business – bingo halls have to account for far more expenses, including hall hire, taxes and adhering to strict licensing laws.
Interestingly, in 2014, British bingo halls were given a tax break after it was revealed that three-quarters of bingo halls had closed down over a period of 30 years. To protect up to 2,000 jobs from climbing tax rates, MPs campaigned for a duty cut which reduced the amount of tax paid to the Exchequer.
Rules can be different in physical bingo halls, however. For example, in some parts of the US, if the progressive jackpot gets too big, operators may decide to put a cap on winnings.
If you’re new to bingo and don’t want to spend money increasing your chances by buying lots of cards at once, you might benefit from a community jackpot setup.
Alternatively, seasoned bingo players may want to try their luck at progressive jackpots. The outcomes of this largely depend on the amounts of tickets bought by other players, so if you’re mathematically-inclined, then you can almost calculate your chances of winning the jackpot!
Katie Thompson is an NCTJ-trained journalist and freelance online gaming writer. She enjoys researching the iGaming industry and writing comprehensive guides on the history of gambling, beating the dealer and even how to get bingo dauber stains out of your favourite shirt.
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