🍒 The Online Bingo Boom in the UK: A Qualitative Examination of Its Appeal

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Our aim was to examine the content of ten online bingo websites in the UK and analyse a qualitative secondary dataset of 12 female bingo players to investigate​.


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The funders had no involvement in the study design, data collection and analysis, the writing of the paper or the decision to submit for publication. We did not enter credit card details into any of the sites but did assess how much of the site content could be accessed without doing so for example, whether it was possible to play without adding credit card details. Online bingo differs from traditional forms of bingo in its ability to be played anywhere and at any time, and its capacity to offer a deeply immersive experience. Starting with the homepage, the presence of links, features and information were noted in the form and an image of the full page captured; then the links to the main sub-pages of the website were clicked on, captured for NVivo, and again, the presence of pre-determined links, features and information identified on the form. Gala Bingo ; others were newer, online only bingo companies eg. Participants were recruited from Glasgow, Scotland and unknown to interviewers prior to study commencement. Nine of the sites encouraged play immediately, on the Home page, and most linked on the Home page to promotional offers. Images of the webpages collected at the first stage were entered into a database for coding, using the qualitative data analysis software NVivo 10 [ 27 ]. Promotions included big prize money, new member promotions and free games. The website content analysis explored the design of bingo websites focusing on their appeal to attract new players and build loyalty, but could not tell us why people played bingo. Belonging was a major theme in the sites. This study describes and analyses the thematic content of online bingo websites in order to explore how they seek to attract, engage and influence their target audiences. This involved exploring which areas of the site could be accessed without registration, and then assessing the registration process by creating a pseudonymous customer account using a standard name, email address and date of birth. All of these features add up to a potentially highly engaging experience which delivers considerable emotional benefits. Interviews took place at a time and place convenient to the participant and were conducted by two authors FD, GR and four highly experienced, female, qualitative interviewers. The thematic analysis examined how design, imagery, textual style and content were used in conjunction with each other to engage both new and existing users and how the benefits of online bingo were conveyed. The sites evoked the thrill of playing and winning through constant mentions of the prize money that could be won, and through lists of or testimonials from prize winners, sometimes constantly updating on the Home page. The proliferation in online bingo is a phenomenon which has not been fully explored to date. Three stages were involved in the data capture and analysis. For more information on this study see Reith and Dobbie [ 28 , 29 ]. Secondly, the extent to which the site could be accessed by a new user was assessed. All 12 bingo players were female with a mean age of 50 years, age ranged from 20 to 73 years. The new user was enticed into play through a range of strategies. Two authors FD, GR developed a coding frame and data were coded by all interviewers using Framework [ 30 ]. Six offered a live chat customer service facility. Three had a Community chat forum, and all ten had a loyalty scheme, with tiered levels of membership in three of the sites. A particular feature of bingo in the UK is that it is the only form of gambling in which women engage more than men [ 2 — 6 ], and is consistently associated with lower socio-economic status and deprivation [ 2 , 6 , 7 ].

Online bingo has seen significant growth in recent years. Nine of the ten sites offered other forms of gambling, most commonly slots and casino games 7 sites each. Findings have been combined into three over-arching themes: drawing in the first-time user, creating belonging, and stepping up involvement.

FD has received funding for her research from a range of organisations including the Economic and Social Research Online bingo websites, the Scottish Government and the Responsibility in Gambling Trust.

All sites had some information about self-exclusion, although this was flagged up on the Home page on only four of the sites. Prior toonline bingo sites were subject to strict regulation in the UK concerning advertising.

The number of people classified as exhibiting problem gambling behaviour and experiencing harm through online gambling is low and the proportion of harm linked specifically to bingo is likely to be even lower [ 9 ].

Employment status varied with older participants tending to be retired and the remainder either in paid unskilled employment or unemployed.

Our aim was to examine the content of ten online bingo websites in the Online bingo websites and analyse a qualitative secondary dataset of 12 female bingo players to investigate the appeal of online bingo. Cheeky Bingo and Tombola ; some were bingo websites developed by betting and gaming companies with a longstanding presence in the UK and Ireland Ladbrokes Bingo and Paddy Power Bingo ; and one represented a common brand sharing format in online bingo, named for an established print or broadcast media company Mirror Bingo, named for the Daily Mirror, a UK tabloid newspaper.

Thus the sites were selected using Google. Some data cannot be shared because participant consent was not given for interview transcripts to be shared; however, requests for the framework charts can be made out to corresponding author, martine.

We then conducted secondary analysis of an existing longitudinal qualitative dataset of gamblers who played bingo in bingo hall and online to understand their motives for playing bingo.

Visual and textual elements on each page were coded and entered into framework matrices. Data Online bingo websites Most of the relevant data are within the paper and its Supporting Information files. Female online gamblers have been found to prefer easy games, and to be attracted by features such as sound and graphics and large jackpots [ 16 ].

At the same time as conveying this impression of thrilling activity and transformative wins, the sites also presented a reassuring image of bingo as normal, widespread and everyday. However, this changed after the introduction of the Gambling Act which dispensed with a number of advertising regulations and allowed online bingo operators to advertise on television, print media, cinema, outdoors and radio.

In the past five years, she has been a member of The Responsible Gambling Strategy Board: the independent body that advises the Gambling Commission on policy and research issues related to gambling.

The player who marks all the numbers first wins a prize, similar to the games keno and lotto. Competing interests: The Institute for Social Marketing at the Link of Stirling received financial support from the European Union for conducting the final, sausage stuffed mushrooms no breadcrumbs something on which the paper is based.

Although it is unclear how much of this is related to online bingo, evidence is emerging to suggest that online gambling participation in the UK is increasing faster among women than men [ 16 ]. The impression of bingo as a normal, everyday activity for fun-loving women was further underlined by a particular design style used across the majority of the sites.

Most were based in offshore jurisdictions eight in Gibraltar and one in the Republic of Malta. Our study aims were to:. Open-ended sections allowed other items or features to be captured, and websites could be browsed using site-maps where available to track down information for the protocol that was not directly linked to from the homepage john sloth main subpages.

Firstly, the main content of each website was recorded using a structured protocol. Photographs of chat hosts and winners, used on nine of the sites, were often low quality, snapshot style of the sort that users themselves might take, rather than glossy studio shots, potentially encouraging identification and providing reassurance.

The first stage of analysis was to make sense of the data through a process of transcript familiarisation, sorting and coding.

Insights into the potential harm arising from this unfettered online access are provided by studies conducted with online gamblers and problem gamblers, including online ameristar hr number players.

All but one of the sites required a new user to register one, Foxy Bingo, allowed the use of the community features by registering through Facebook online bingo websites than registering an account. This sampling procedure provided a range of types of online bingo companies available in the UK: some of the companies also operated bricks-and-mortar bingo halls eg.

All her more info is independent, and the views expressed in this article are her own.

A thematic analysis was conducted to systematically code, classify and organise interview content into key themes. GR has received funding for her research from a range of organisations including the Economic and Social Research Council, the Scottish Government and the Responsibility in Gambling Trust.

Online forms of gambling have many perceived benefits for both novice and regular gamblers. Thematic content analysis is a well established and widely recognised research method for examining texts, media and online content, and is particularly suited for describing new media phenomena and for understanding and analysing the message strategies and framings deployed on a particular topic [ 22 — 24 ], including online gambling [ 25 ].

In addition, the design decisions reflected in the bingo sites had the effect of positioning online bingo as a benign, child-like, homely, women-friendly, social activity.

Cash prizes were offered for free games on four out of the ten websites, meaning that new users could start to win before they had registered their credit card details with the site, and acting as an enticement to continue playing.

A draft protocol was initially piloted by four authors MS, KA, RIP, LM on two websites two authors per websitethen refined and used to capture data from the ten bingo websites. Our analysis of bingo websites found a common theme where websites were easy to navigate and structured to present a light-hearted, fun, online bingo websites, social image of gambling.

Two further aspects of this design style were notable; firstly, that where the bingo provider was better known for its other gambling services eg. We approached this from two distinct angles. For women in particular, online gambling is no limit roulette as less of a male domain and a fun and safe environment where they can learn to gamble [ 1420 ].

However, it is possible that the effects of the recent proliferation in online gambling will only emerge in future years. This study sought to fill this gap. Each page was coded first by company and page descriptor eg.

For the first-time visitor, the sites presented the prospect of an exciting, likeable and easily accessible experience. Six sites linked to a mobile app and seven to social media. The language was inviting and inclusive, with constant references to joining in, social interaction, community and friendship.

Some sites included lists of bingo and chatroom terminology for new users e.

This study sought to increase understanding of this growth by exploring the appeal of online bingo. Ladbrokes and Paddy Power , its other websites did not use this style, and secondly that of the pair of sites which used more muted versions of this design style, both were re-designed after the fieldwork to come closer to the norm. Using two separate and distinct data sources added greater depth and insight to investigate our hypothesis, which was that online bingo websites would use design, content and other features to offer a distinct form of immersive gambling which appeals to these motives and attracts bingo players to play online. Three websites allowed users to play games without entering credit card details as part of the registration process, and five websites allowed users to play games without depositing funds. A report on trends in UK television gambling advertising found that exposure to bingo advertising increased ten-fold between and , with adults experiencing an increase in exposure from 1. Answers were compared and discussed to improve coding reliability for the rest of the websites which were all singly-coded by three authors. The bingo websites were easy to navigate and generally used the same structure of an opening homepage linking to subpages for joining and registration; playing bingo and other games; community features eg. It was hypothesised that a player new to online bingo would use a search engine to find a website. To date, there have been no published studies which focus on understanding the growth and appeal of the phenomenon of online bingo websites in the UK. In addition they are perceived as a good value for money form of entertainment; offer social contact and a sense of community [ 16 ], reduce isolation and boredom, particularly for those with limited real world social contact [ 18 ]; and offer a form of escape and release from the stresses of family life [ 19 ]. All ten sites asked for date of birth, and it was not possible to enter a date of birth under 18 years of age on any of the websites, but only four websites included additional age verification procedures namely, a box which the user checked to confirm they were over None of the websites ran checks or verification procedures for personal contact details address, phone number, email address before completing registration. Table 2 illustrates the main themes with examples of findings. The data were input to Excel and summarised in descriptive tables. In , there were fewer than 20 online bingo providers in the UK compared with more than in , although the market is fluid, with smaller operators constantly entering and departing the market [ 13 ]. Themes were then identified within each category through further reading and discussion, and additional categories and themes added for a final thematic coding frame of ten overall coding categories and 68 themes see S2 File. Thus, secondary analysis of interviews from 12 bingo players augmented findings by exploring motivation to play bingo from the perspective of initiation and continued play. Interviews took between 30 and 90 minutes, were digitally recorded, transcribed and field notes written after each interview. The protocol comprised a form with tick box lists and some open-ended sections see S1 File , plus an NVivo 10 QSR International, Victoria, Australia database to record images screengrabs of the webpages. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License , which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited. Ethical approval was granted from the National Centre for Social Research and participants gave written informed consent.