In a land famed for its glorious weather, extraordinary landscapes and expansive beaches, it’s something of a curiosity to discover the Spanish like to spend much of their time indoors playing bingo. But play bingo they do, in growing numbers.
Once a preserve of bingo halls across the country, and they remain popular to this day, many more people of course now play bingo online, much as they do here in the UK.
And although one or two online sites have closed down their bingo operations – Binguez and enracha for instance – the effect has purely been a consolidation, because online revenues for the game are on the increase. There is still a decent choice of online bingo sites if you look around, with YoBingo, Tombola and Botemania leading the way – this is a good review of Botemania (in Spanish).
According to the latest figures from the Dirección General de Ordenación del Juego (DGOJ), Spain’s equivalent of the UK’s Gambling Commission, bingo revenues increased in the third quarter of 2019, the latest figures available, by 1%. That equates to €3.2 million in revenues from online bingo alone in three months – in the heat of the summer. Perhaps it was simply too hot to go outside in Spain instead?
The online bingo market is only part of the story in Spain, which is enjoying something of a resurgence in the online gaming market. The figures from the DGOJ show that overall online revenues rose by 5.4% over the same period in 2018 – and were 7.5% higher than the previous 2019 quarter. Sports betting revenues were €100.8m, online casinos netted €66.5m while online poker made €20.5m.
Okay, online bingo, at €3.2m is the baby of the Spanish market, but the fact it’s thriving continues to turn heads. It’s the popularity of real bingo halls, once the only choice for gamers, that is helping to drive the online variant.
Like in the UK, what was once seen as a preserve for elderly ladies is now a great social occasion, enjoyed by men and women of all ages out for a good night out. Bingo halls have changed beyond recognition, from dark, smoky places. Now new bingo halls are smart entertainment centres with good food and drink.
Add the fact that Spain has hundreds of thousands of British ex-pats, many of whom love their bingo, and you can see why the popularity of bingo halls, and the knock-on benefit to online bingo, has prevailed.
Another clue to the rise in online bingo is the folks who dished out those latest revenue numbers – the DGOJ. As the nation’s Government regulator, it now ensures all online gambling sites are properly regulated.
While once far-off places could license sites, like the Isle of Man, Malta or Gibraltar (okay, Gibraltar is tagged on to the south of Spain but you get the idea), other sites didn’t bother getting regulated at all, and that had implications for player funds, trust, and safety.
Since 2012, however, the Spanish Government launched the DGOJ, and any site in Spain had to gain a license from it. Overnight, trust and service improved significantly, and players who might otherwise have shied away from playing bingo online are now happy to do so.
How long that will last remains to be seen. There’s no immediate doubt that revenues will continue to grow at a steady pace. While it’s entirely possible the likes of online poker might take a hit, since the game has a shorter player lifespan and has been in decline elsewhere in the world, bingo has been around for generations.
Add the fact that the online gambling companies are improving their customer service, promotions and loyalty schemes, all designed to squeeze out more revenues from each individual player, and it’s clear there is a lot more potential for revenues to climb in the coming years. Sites like Botemania have lots of offers to tempt new players and to keep existing players coming back for more. Plus most all have keen online communities on Facebook and Twitter
There’s only one unlikely series of events that will make the popularity of the game rise super fast – and that’s a succession of poor summers. With overcast skies, rain and howling winds, the good people of Spain won’t be able to enjoy the great outdoors so much and will opt to stay inside and take to their computers, tablets and mobile devices to play a cheeky game of bingo.
Eyes down, señores y señoras.