Is Bingo Fair? discussed the widely held suspicion that online bingo is in some way “fixed”. As the article pointed out, within the United Kingdom at least, we can be sure that it isn’t. Nevertheless, one of the striking features noted was that the Return to Player (RTP) rate for bingo is far lower than it is for slots.
The RTP rate for a game tells us what proportion of our stake or ticket money is returned to players in the form of prizes. Basically, the higher the figure, the better. With slots, most games have an RTP figure around 95%. This means that a typical game may, over the long term, pay back 95% of the money staked on the game, with 5% retained by the site operator.
For bingo, the anticipated long term average RTP rate is more difficult to calculate than for slots, because of the mechanics of the game. But in general, it is certainly true that the expected return rate is far lower for bingo than can be expected from playing on slots. The actual rate is rarely published, but is widely estimated to average around the 70% mark.
There are some good reasons for this: the operators costs are far higher for putting on bingo than for slots for example. Bingo is a social game, and players generally expect lively chat rooms and a friendly experience. The game also takes time. Playing slots on the other hand, is a largely solitary experience. It is also very swift: a spin is over in seconds at most, whereas a game of bingo takes far longer to complete. It is also true that the average bingo player tends to spend far less on his or her game than the average slot player, which again means fewer profits for the site operator. So the question is, why doesn’t everyone just play slots?
Well it’s not just all about money is it? As already outlined, bingo is a social game. Bingo players expect a social experience, and paying for all those friendly chat hosts is expensive. I suppose you could have chat hosts for slots, but it’s unlikely they would be very popular. Even in the real world, where slot machines are lined up in rows just inches apart, communication between players is unlikely to go much beyond the occasional cursory glance or brief raised eyebrow if your neighbour strikes it lucky. Besides, if slot sites provided chat, the players would have to pay for it, and the RTP for slots would have to fall to similar levels to that of bingo.
But there are other factors too. Really, whether we spend money on bingo cards or slot spins, one of the major components of what we are paying for is entertainment. Sure we want to win some money. Sure it’s nice when we win a major prize, whether from a full house or a good line combination. But looked at from the entertainment point of view, despite its lower RTP rates, bingo can still be seen as better value for money.
Slots have the potential to pay out more, but it’s far easier to lose money too. You can buy bingo tickets from as little as 1p. Let’s say you buy a ticket for 10p. Bigger sites tend to have a new game starting every few minutes, so even if you are a speed freak, dodging from room to room, it’s easy to limit the amount you can spend. Of course, many if not most online players buy more than one ticket per game, but even so, you are going to get some time and entertainment for your money, even if you don’t win.
Now let’s look at slots. A spin is over in a second, or maybe two. And they don’t come cheap. In practice, as players tend to prefer to play with all available lines, the minimum stake per spin is likely to be 20p – 25p. It would be easy to play say, 20 spins a minute, giving you a minimum stake of around £4 – £5 per minute. And that is just a minimum. Many players choose to stake more.
So for slot players, the higher RTP rate means it can be a more efficient way to play from a financial point of view. Prizes tend to be bigger too. But on the down side the stakes and potential losses are higher, and each spin is over in seconds.
Bingo players may get a lower potential prize pot, and a smaller proportion of their ticket money returned in winnings, but they get a social experience, and more time as a proportion of money spent to enjoy the game.
So, at the end of the day, you pay your money and you make your choice… And in any case, on most bingo sites and many casino sites, you can choose both. As long as you stick to your budget, why not enjoy the best of both worlds?