Young Female Bingo Players“I was skint, and I was down to £4 in my bingo account, so when I won £5,000 on the jackpot, I was crying and shaking,” says 27 year old Daniella. A full-time mum from Aberdeenshire, Daniella paid off some debts and gave her mum £500, “then I treated my family to a day out. We went shopping and took the kids for a nice meal,” recalls Daniella.
Daniella is one of a growing number of women in their 20s and 30s who enjoy playing online bingo. While bingo used to be seen as a “granny’s game” played in bingo halls by pensioners whose “bingo wings” flapped when they waved their winning scorecard, it’s now often played bingo at home, online, by young mums when they’ve put the kids to bed.
“It’s what I call Mummy's Getaway Hour,” says Daniella, who plays for two hours a night on a week day, and three to four hours a night at weekends. “Being a full time mum, it’s hard getting out, so I usually go online to play bingo games when the kids are asleep. It’s a lot better than playing in an actual bingo hall, because you don’t need to leave the house!” says Daniella.
“You can be all comfy in bed in your pyjamas, or in the bath, or doing the cleaning, or dealing with the kids. You can do it while you’re having something to eat, and you don’t have any worries about missing a number,” she explains.
For Daniella, bingo is relaxing, “but there’s also the thrill of maybe winning a big amount. You can win big with as little at 5p - which I have done, a good few times! So the more I’ve won, the more I want to play.”
Daniella first got into bingo from going to bingo halls with her family. “My mum’s gone to bingo halls since she was young - so did my gran, and everyone in my family, so when I became of age, I started going to bingo halls too. It was fun, and it was family time, having a laugh with the older girls. But when I had my first daughter 10 years ago, I struggled to get a babysitter and I stopped going as often.”
When Daniella stopped going to bingo, her mum stopped going too. “Then she was watching TV one evening, and an ad came on for an online bingo site,” says Daniella. “My mum was curious so she signed up – then she started winning money! She was winning more than she’d win in an actual bingo hall, and when she told me, I signed up – along with most of the people in my family. Since then, we’ve all been playing online.”
Kerry, who’s 39, has been playing online bingo for five years. Like Daniella, she got into it after going to a bingo hall. “I went with some friends, years ago,” she says. “I enjoyed it, and my friend won £50! A few months after that, I saw an advert for online free bingo on TV and I thought I’d give it a go.”
Based in Swansea, Kerry works part time to fit in around her children’s school hours. “I can’t afford too much,” says Kerry, “so I just put in £15-20 once a month when I get paid – then I treat myself to playing at the weekend!”
Kerry’s first big win was two years ago, when she found herself £325 richer. “I remember it clearly,” she says. “We were in the lounge, and my son was playing Minecraft, while my daughter was watching Garfield – she watches children’s programmes until 7pm, when my soaps start, so while she was watching cartoons, I was playing online bingo,” recalls Kerry.
“When I won, I screamed!” she says, laughing. “I frightened the life out of my daughter - she was only 10 at the time. I was excited to win,” says Kerry, “but I didn’t spend any of the money on myself. My first thought was I can spoil my kids! I took them out for McDonald’s because my son, who was 12, was pestering me for a Happy Meal - nothing’s changed there!” she laughs.
Kerry bought her son a game for his Nintendo Switch, but it was her daughter’s present that sparked the most excitement. “I spent some of the winnings on two tickets to take my daughter to see Little Mix in Cardiff. She loves them, and she’d begged to see them. I hadn’t been able to afford it, but when I won the money on the bingo, that’s the first thing I bought!”
Looking back, Kerry says, “when I showed my daughter the email confirmation for the Little Mix tickets, she was so excited! It was a big deal for me though, as I have social anxiety and crowds terrify me. It was just us two and I was a bag of nerves!”
In March this year, Kerry had another nice windfall from online bingo, winning £250. “It came at a good time, because I was struggling money-wise,” says Kerry, explaining, “my ex-husband hadn’t been paying child maintenance, so I’d been really short of money.”
This time, most of Kerry’s winnings went on paying bills, but she did manage to squeeze out a little treat for her children. “I took them to a local restaurant and we had ice-cream for afters,” says Kerry, adding, “a little part of me hopes for a miracle to win something just to get by sometimes.”
Natalie, who lives in London, has also been playing online bingo for five years. Her first big win was £500, and it came at just the right time. “One of my kids had a school trip coming up. It cost £250 and I only had two weeks to come up with the money. I thought I’d have to borrow it, so I was really lucky that I won when I did!”
As a mum of five, 34 year old Natalie rarely gets a chance to spend money on herself, but this win meant she was able to buy some new clothes. She says: “There was a long red dress I’d wanted for three months but I hadn’t been able to afford it because it cost £90. I got that, and some nice heels, and a couple of tops as well,” says Natalie, whose winnings stretched to taking her husband out for his birthday.
“We went for dinner at this posh restaurant, and I wore the red dress,” says Natalie, adding, “it was six months since I’d bought anything for myself. I usually just buy stuff for the kids as they’re always in need. It’s not like when it was just me – now, all my cash goes on them, so when I do get myself something, it’s awesome!”
Natalie first got into bingo from going to a bingo hall with her mum every Tuesday evening. Then a friend told Natalie about online bingo, and gave her a free sign-up code. Since then, she’s never looked back – and she shares her love of online bingo with her mum and her sister-in-law.
“I was at my mum’s when I won the £500,” says Natalie. “I bought a ticket, then I put my phone down to charge, and when I went back to look, I saw I’d won!” Natalie’s sister-in-law was also there at the time. “They both said ‘well done’ and gave me a hug, as they knew I really needed it,” says Natalie.
Good luck seems to run in the family, as Natalie’s mum has had several big wins, including one whopper of £1,100, while her sister-in-law has had windfalls of £250 and £500. “When my mum won that it was close to Christmas, so she got all the grandkids presents,” says Natalie. “And when my sister-in-law won, we went shopping for her daughter, and she treated me to lunch at Nando’s. It was lovely to have someone treat me,” says Natalie, who usually plays when her kids are asleep.
Samantha Rea can be found tweeting here.