How much can you win at online bingo sites?
There is no simple answer to how much you might win when you are play bingo online because, usually, the prizes are not fixed. There are, however, a number of factors that will affect what the prizes will be. Ultimately, it will down to a combination of the game, the game’s operator and — usually — the number of other players in the game.
In the UK bingo sites must be licensed by the Gambling Commission which regulates gambling. The Gambling Commission has set out a number of rules that operators must follow in setting up their games. One of the most important, when it comes to winnings, dictates that in most circumstances the prize pot must consist of the money paid to play a game.
While some operators can offer fixed jackpot games, most games you will play will have a prize pool that consists of the money that has been paid by players. Operators are allowed to take their operating cost from this payment, and that can include a reasonable amount for profit, but everything else must be returned to players as prizes.
Because of this there is no fixed return-to-player, or RTP, that you will see advertised on other games at a casino website. Although a bingo site will have a good idea of their costs for a game, because they don’t know how many players there will be they can only estimate what the prizes on offer will be.
What affects the jackpot size
A number of factors will affect the potential winnings in any game. The one exception is a fixed jackpot game where the total prize is advertised in advance. Otherwise, the following factors will influence the amount of the prizes.
Games will sometimes have a minimum jackpot. These are provided as a guarantee, so you know it is the lowest possible prize you would win in the stated situation. It might be a minimum for a full house if the prize is shared so the win isn’t too low, for example.
These will also affect the prize in situations where relatively few tickets have been sold, so the prize pool is small. It’s a relatively rare situation normally, since bingo halls like to have their games full and don’t want to lose money, but you might see it as part of a promotion if the site is trying to attract people to play particular games or at specific times.
The number of tickets being played
Ticket sales will be the major influence on the prize pot. Since most games are structured so the prize is made up of the game card sales, more players means bigger prizes. This, of course, isn’t necessarily good news for players. While the more people playing the bigger the prizes are because bingo is a game of chance, the more players there are the less chance any individual player has of scooping up that jackpot!
What prizes are on offer
The structure of the prize pool will also affect how much you can win. There are usually several ways you can win in bingo, the most common are for lines and full houses, however some variants of bingo will have other prizes, for example, forming shapes or patterns on the game card.
The division of the prize pot will affect the potential winnings and might affect which games you prefer. If you are going for a big win, you might choose to play games where most of it goes to the first with a full house. If you want to maximise your chances of taking something away then a game where lines get a good share might not have the biggest prizes, but are better than finishing with nothing.
If the win is shared
A feature of bingo is that it’s possible for more than one person to win the same prize, whether a line or a full house. Because online bingo games can be huge this can mean a lot of people sharing the prize, and that can have a big effect on the amount someone will take home, with each extra winner taking another slice of the jackpot.
Whether it’s a progressive jackpot
Some games will offer a progressive jackpot. This can affect the prize in two ways.
First, a progressive jackpot will make the individual game prize slightly smaller. A portion of the entry fees for each game will be paid into the progressive jackpot total. This total will increase each time that the jackpot goes unclaimed, but will mean that the winner in those games will get a slightly smaller win because both the progressive jackpot contribution and operator’s costs are deducted from the prize pool.
Second, a progressive jackpot can create a huge prize for a lucky winner. Progressive jackpots can increase incredibly quickly. They are often quite difficult to win, for example needing to get a full house within a small number of calls, so can build for a long time. And because they are often large amounts the games attract a lot of players, meaning that the jackpot gets even bigger. They are sometimes played internationally and some lucky players have won millions in a progressive jackpot game.
What else might affect your winnings
Even if you win, there are still some factors that can affect how much you actually get. This might be a case of how easily you get your money, down to whether you might get your money at all.
Withdrawal limits on your account
If you have a big win, you might have a problem with withdrawal limits. These are in place for a variety of reasons. Some are legal, like the duty placed on operators to prevent potential money laundering. Others might be practical, like a limit that’s placed on them by their payment provider. Some might simply be because the operator wants to keep hold of your money for a little longer.
This is only likely to affect bigger wins, usually several thousand pounds and above, and with most sites a call to customer services will resolve the issue.
These might be an issue if you have been using free games or free credit through an offer. In short, although the site will have given you some free games, they also want you to spend some money with them as well. This is often set as a multiple of the bonus you got, if, for example, you received £10 free credit, the site might want you to spend two or three times that amount before you can start withdrawing winnings.
If you were lucky enough to have a big win with your free credit, you might have to dip into those winnings a little before you can withdraw the rest. If your win was small, though, it might be that your own option is to spend it on more games.
These are much less common, not least because no site wants to be seen as being miserly when it comes to winnings, but caps are sometimes placed. These are most often placed on games played with free credit. Like wagering requirements it’s because the site wants you to pay, not just take some free games and lots of money. It is worth checking the terms and conditions of any offer to make sure there aren’t winnings caps.
Improving your odds
A frequent complaint in bingo halls was that the same person always won. The complaint was usually made alongside a suggestion that the game was, in some way, rigged. In practice this was never the case. Bingo is a game of chance, there is nothing that can be done to affect the chances of your card winning, whether it’s being nice to the bingo caller and using a lucky dabber in the old days, or following a log-in ritual and using your tablet case today, neither will make a win more likely.
Stringent checks are made on bingo sites to make sure their games, and the random number generator that runs it, are fair and honest, so the possibility of unfair practice isn’t there. In the old days of bingo halls the one who won a lot was usually the one that played lots of cards simultaneously, and in the modern, online, game the same is true.
Because every bingo card in play has the same probability of winning only way you can improve your odds is by playing more cards, just like the perpetual winner from the bingo hall days. The key difference between playing multiple cards online and in a bingo hall is that you don’t need to have the eyes of an eagle and arms of an octopus to keep up with all the cards now. The computer can do it for you.
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