Summing up Recommended List of New Bingo Sites by Top Of The Shop Bingo
What is online bingo?
New bingo sites are arriving all the time. Which may be a bit of a surprise. Aren’t there more than enough already? Sometimes it seems that way. There are already hundreds in operation, of variable quality. Many players complain that the market is already flooded, with dozens of templated, virtually identical titles in existence. Some really are identical, with just the home page disguising the fact that underneath, the site provides the same games, the same offers and sometimes even the very same chat rooms.
So what is going on here? What is the point of these new sites, and what do you need to look out for if you decide that you want to try something new? To help us answer these topical questions, let’s first look at a bit of the history of the game…
The Rise of Online Bingo
Bingo started to move online around the time of the dawn of the new millennium. But the very first online bingo site was in fact launched in 1996. This was CyberBingo.com, and the site is still in existence to this day. However, it is not really recommended for current UK based players, because it is licenced in Curacao, and is therefore not regulated by the UK Gambling Commission.
Bingo did not really begin to take off in the United Kingdom for a few more years. Think Bingo launched in 2004, claiming to be the first UK targeted online bingo site. Several further sites followed shortly afterwards: Foxy Bingo launched the following year. Things started to progress faster with the arrival of Tombola in 2006.
Tombola remains one of the most popular online bingo sites in the United Kingdom, aided by its tried and tested policy of promoting itself via big name sponsorship deals. This began in 2009 with its lucrative deal to sponsor the ITV soap opera Emmerdale. This really launched the site into the big time, drawing in lots of new players for the first time, and helping to promote the whole online bingo industry as a result. A further sponsorship deal with Premier League football club Sunderland widened its customer profile, lasting from 2010 – 12, before the site returned to its commercial TV roots with a spell as sponsors of ITV’s lunch time chat show Loose Women.
The industry experienced a further boom after 2011, when Facebook released a series of free bingo apps. This really helped to popularise the game, with many players tempted to move on to play for real money on conventional sites.
Many of today’s top bingo software designers began to hit their stride during this period. Dragonfish, Cozy Games and Jumpman Gaming all rapidly expanded, with big networks like Cozy’s Live Bingo Network (LBN) and Jumpman’s 15 Network becoming major players in the online bingo world.
This explosion in the number of new online bingo sites both responded to existing demand and helped to spread the popularity of the game still further. In 2008, barely 50,000 players played bingo online, and even this was mostly as a barely profitable add-on for the casino sites. But by 2015, the UK Gambling Commission estimated that player numbers had increased to around three million. UK online bingo operators reported around £80 million in revenue that year, representing a massive increase of close to 75% on the previous year.
This rapid growth was re-enforced by one final factor in the phenomenal growth of the industry – the advent of the mobile form of the game. In that same year (2014 – 15) mobile play doubled as the game finally took off on more compact devices.
Up until this point, most online bingo had taken place on desktop PCs and Macs. But technology was moving on rapidly. There were several factors at play. Firstly, the slow fading out of dial-up internet and its replacement with broadband and Wi-Fi meant that online gaming could be much faster and of higher quality. Graphics could be improved and speeds increased without suffering all the drop-outs and buffering which hampered the old technology.
Smart phones were becoming more powerful, with better screens too. This meant that the new devices could keep up with the higher processing speeds required for gaming, and with more widely available and more reliable Wi-Fi, games could be played on the go, rather than having to be linked to the player’s home hub. The release of Apple’s iPad and other rival tablets also gave the industry a big boost.
Finally, an improvement in online gaming software resulted in a vast improvement in the potential for playing games like bingo or slots on your mobile. Previously, playing games on a smart phone meant that it was difficult to play socially with others, for example in a bingo chat room, because the connection quality, processor speed and screen resolution were all insufficient to cope with the game requirements on a mobile. Such play generally required the downloading of special software or a dedicated app to enable the phone to cope with the speed of screen play. This could make things fiddly, and many players were unwilling to download possibly bug laden foreign software onto their precious devices.
Many of these irritating practical difficulties were swept away with the advent of new HTML5 technology. Games designed using this new programming protocol could be played on a mobile or tablet through a device’s pre-installed web browser, just like on any other website. Now there was no need for complicated downloads. No need for a special app. Just load the game and play! Everything became so much more phone-friendly.
And so this brings us more or less up to date. Mobile bingo sites now far exceeds gaming on those clunky old retro desktops and laptops. In fact, things have improved so much you can even play live games like Poker and Roulette on your phone, and joining a bingo chat room on your phone is no longer a painfully frustrating series of buffering drop-outs.
But the thing is, with all this increased capacity and technology, and all those eager players around, there will always be a lot of competition for your money. And that is why there are so many different sites out there looking to entice you with their glitzy new designs and tempting introductory bonus offers. But why do they all seem to look so similar?
The Problem of the Identikit New Bingo Sites
Sometimes it can seem that so many online bingo sites look and play pretty much the same. The market seems saturated with sites that appear to be virtually identical. In fact, at the time of writing, there are around 500 online bingo sites licenced to operate in the UK market. And yet once you get beyond the landing page, so many of them seem to have the very same lay out, feature exactly the same games, in the same formats and often with the same terms and conditions too. The more regularly you play, and the more you look for alternative sites offering something different, the clearer this becomes. Why is this? Surely it would be better for players to have more variety?
To discover the reasons behind this phenomenon, you have to try to see life from the other side of the online bingo coin. Just suppose you were a considering becoming a bingo site operator. How would you go about that?
Well, if you really were determined to offer something different and innovative, you could start from scratch. You would need to hire a software designer and a marketing whizz to construct your new site and come up with a memorable name, eye-catching logo and original theme. Then you would need to construct the actual site, including all the game software, the banking and financial facilities and decide on your Terms and Conditions (better hire a good lawyer for that). Then, when closer to launch, you would need to hire your chat hosts and customer support team. Oh, and you’ll need lots of them, because it is a 24 hour a day operation. And night work is expensive.
Finally, because online bingo is very closely regulated, you need to apply for a licence from the UK Gambling Commission. And if you’re new, with no record in the industry, the said Commission will be taking a VERY close look at you and your background. Not that you’ve got anything to hide of course. It’s just that all this checking takes time, and time costs you more money.
I think you can see that this is all getting a bit expensive. Of course, you will soon hopefully have some money coming in from your newly launched site, but things tend to start slowly. Not only that, but bingo is generally run at around a 70% Return to Player Rate (RTP). So you only get around 30% of the revenue players pay for their tickets. Slot players can provide more income, but the RTP for slots is much higher, at around 95%, so you only get 5% of the value of their spins. And don’t forget that these are only averages. One of your players MIGHT win the jackpot. And YOU have to pay it!
I know, I know, your heart is bleeding. But, even through the tears, I‘m sure you can see that launching a new site can be seriously expensive. And seriously risky.
But there is another way – a much easier and cheaper way. You could just buy an “off the shelf” design. In the industry jargon, this is called operating a “white label” site. Here, all the hard work is done for you. You just buy a “skin” from an existing operator. All you need to do is come up with your name and brand (the operator’s own marketing and design team will help you) and everything else is taken care of. Everything. The software design, the legal side of things, the licencing, the banking facilities, chat hosts, customer support – all provided by the operator.
Not only that, but you even have a choice of partners, so you can drive down the price. Dragonfish, Cozy Games (Live Bingo Network) and Jumpman Gaming (15 Network) are the big players for mainstream sites, but there are others. Of course, there are disadvantages to this too: you have to pay them a big commission, and your site will look pretty much the same as many of your rivals. But it’s all so much quicker, easier and cheaper than starting from scratch. It really is a bit of a no brainer. It remains seriously risky though – you still might have to pay out on that big jackpot!
So hopefully you can now see why all those templated sites look similar. I know it’s hard to have sympathy for all those big money site operators, but at least you now have an insight into why things are the way they are.
What to Look For When Considering a New Site
When you are looking for a new bingo site to play on, there are a few important factors to consider. One thing that is rarely a consideration these days is the site design itself. Contemporary software is much improved, so provided that you have a reasonable internet connection, every site should run smoothly with few drop-outs or glitches. Mobile players may find that some sites are better designed for the smaller device: the less scrolling through long list of games you have to do the better. So sites that sub-divide games into genre, or at the very least put them in alphabetical order, can be at an advantage.
Another thing to look out for is that the site is properly licenced and regulated by the UK Gambling Commission. All the sites we review are fully compliant with UK regulations, so if you follow any of our reviews you can be sure you are safe.
If you are unsure about any site you find elsewhere, look for a written assurance from the site operators that they are licenced and regulated by the UK Gambling Commission. This can usually found at the bottom of the site’s landing page. The UK Gambling Commission logo may also be displayed.
One thing that definitely is worth looking out for is the kind of introductory bonuses on offer. Almost all sites provide some kind of incentive to join. This will usually be in one of three forms. Some sites can even offer all three.
1) Free Bonus
Here is where the promoters are apparently offering you money for nothing, just to play on their site. What’s not to like? Er, quite a lot actually. Nothing is really free is it?
The potential catch here is with the terms and conditions which are always attached. Make sure you check. Many sites will allocate any winnings derived from your “free bonus” as bonus cash. This means that you can’t withdraw it as real money, but only use it on the site to pay for further games. Even if they do count it as real cash, you will have to make a real deposit before you can withdraw any winnings.
Sometimes, the site will offer you a real “no deposit” bonus. But here there will usually be a rule called “maximum conversion” where your winnings are capped at, say, £20, or at 4 x your bonus amount.
But even if none of these apply, most sites have what is called a “fair gaming” policy. In plain English, this means that you are not allowed to take advantage of the site’s generosity. The idea behind offering you a “free” bonus is for you to try things out, not to actually win anything: you have to give the site the chance to win its money back by making a real deposit!
2) Free Deposit Bonus
With this kind of bonus, you do have to make a deposit. But you are rewarded with some free money to go with it. This is usually expressed as a percentage, e.g. “Get 200% Bingo Bonus on your First Deposit”. So, in other words, if you make a deposit of £10, the site will give you another £20 to play with. Sometimes this will be described as something like “Deposit £10 and Play With £30”, but it is in fact exactly the same offer.
Here the things to look out for are the wagering requirements. See below for details on what these mean.
3) Free Spins
With this kind of introductory offer, you are rewarded with free slot spins on the site’s promoted games. As far as the terms and conditions go, these can be treated as the equivalent of the “Free Bonus”, described above.
But whichever of these introductory bonuses you are offered, you will always need to be aware of these…
These state that you have to wager a certain proportion of your bonus in real cash before you can withdraw any winnings. For bingo, it will normally be something like “4 x your deposit + bonus”. In which case, if you were to deposit £10 and receive a bonus of £20, you would need to spend £120 (4 x £30) of your own money before making a claim. The actual proportion can vary a lot. Sometimes the multiple is applied to just your bonus amount, and your deposit is excluded. The standard for bingo is around 4 x but it can be more or less. The multiple for playing on slots is always higher.
There are a few sites which do not appear to have wagering requirements of any kind. But even when this is the case, you will be required to make a real cash deposit, and there will also usually be a “fair gaming” clause of some kind.
Are Bonuses worth it?
Well, yes they probably are. After all, it is still “free” in a sense. It’s money you wouldn’t otherwise have been able to use. It’s just that you need to be aware of the conditions attached!
In any case, always remember that you don’t have to accept it. All sites have an opt out option (although you may have to do a little searching to use it). If you don’t want your bonus, just say no!
One further factor to bear in mind is that many sites have a maximum claim limit. This could be a consideration if you decide to play on progressive games, where the jackpot can rise to life-changing amounts, or if you play on slots. Many sites will limit the amount you can withdraw to, say, £2,000 per day, or £5,000 per month.
Now that can sound like quite a lot – far beyond what many bingo players will be expecting to win. But remember, in the exceedingly rare event that you really do win big, it will take a very long time to finally pay out your mega jackpot prize. In the example above, if you were to win £250,000 it would take more than four years for you to get all your cash!