Earlier this year, WhichBingo produced their annual online bingo report which included the results of a bingo player's survey. Now prior to this edition of the report, I worked for WhichBingo and was responsible for producing the survey, so I know the questions very well, along with the survey answers going back to 2016.
I was very keen to see this year's report, given it would be the first time it was produced without me being involved.
Claim: More Men Are Playing Bingo
When I first looked through the report I didn't see anything hugely unexpected in the results, except for a claim that the number of male participants in the survey had increased from 21% to 48% from the previous year.
OK, I thought. I guess it makes sense that with lockdown and a drop in sports betting, that more men could be trying a bit of bingo. But the size of the increase just seemed wrong to me. The gender split in previous survey results had consistently stayed around 80% female, 20% male each year, never really changing until last year when male participants did in fact almost double. Could it really have doubled again?
Previous WhichBingo Survey results:
- 2016: 81% Female / 17% Male
- 2017: 82% Female / 18% Male
- 2018: 82% Female / 18% Male
- 2019: 88% Female / 12% Male
- 2020: 78% Female / 21% Male
- 2021: 52% Female / 48% Male
'Seismic Shift' - But Is It True?
WhichBingo's PR machine clearly led with the increase in male players as a key hook when doing their outreach. It appears to have worked for them, with several news outlets running the story with this as part of the headline, including at least one national newspaper:
- The Sun: Two Fat Laddies - Bingo's no longer just for old ladies as number of young men playing soars during lockdown
- EGR Marketing: WhichBingo: Demographics dramatically altered due to Covid-19
- European Gaming: Bingo is officially attracting a younger audience - and more young men than ever before
- CasinoBeats: WhichBingo urges bingo reinvention following 'seismic shift' in online play
The confidence in which these findings were being put out there, as though they were 100% fact and representative of the whole bingo industry, annoyed me a little bit if I'm being honest. No-one appeared to be saying, "hang on a minute, are you sure male players have increased that much?"
Surveys, however well you set them up, are easily influenced or manipulated by where you share them and how you incentivise them. All it would take is someone to share the survey link on a casino forum or website, and bam, suddenly you have loads more men completing the survey. WhichBingo also has much more slots and casino content than ever before, perhaps it's reflective of more men visiting the site, rather than more men playing actual bingo.
I wanted to find out where the real truth lies.
So I Asked The Operators
I decided to put the word out to a number of online bingo operators, simply asking them if they had seen anything near the levels of male participation in bingo in 2020 as WhichBingo's results were claiming.
Some operators were more open than others as to what they would share, but the majority who I spoke to privately said they saw little or no real increase in male players and were surprised by the results from the survey. Those who did see some increase said it was certainly not anything like the 50% increase being mentioned so freely in the news outlets.
Of those who were happy to speak publicly, here are their responses. Some of which have other little gems of information that you may find interesting, such as less doctors registering at Mecca Bingo in 2020 - Hmm, maybe they were very busy for some reason!
Anthony Conroy - Rank Group
"Hi Wayne, I actually pulled a load of data based on the results from Which as I didn’t feel it had been reflected in our numbers. I’ve closed it all out now though as there was no difference in our player mix. They had stated that many men were playing with their partners as opposed to setting up their own accounts but our stats haven’t shifted in terms of gender mix even during the first lockdown.
The only significant change was an increase in players indicating Mx as their title which was designed for people who don’t want to specify or identify as something other than Mr or Mrs Ms etc. That was just 0.65% but it’s a new option. We also had a fall in the number of players identifying as Dr. We had 6.64% with Dr in 2019 but only 2.77% in 2020.
We did see a material shift in the numbers of male players through the end of 2019 and into 2020 peaking with the beginning of the first lockdown. That trend has since shifted back in line with the UK opening up again.
While men make up around 28% of players they take just under half of the bonuses suggesting that is a motivating factor. The majority of their play is on slots and games as opposed to bingo, but 1 in 5 bingo players are males at Mecca."
Mecca Bingo Gender stats
- 2018: 22.31% male
- 2019: 26.77% male
- 2020: 29.91% male
- 2021: 27.11% male
Andrew Steddy - PlayOJO
"PlayOJO overall has a really evenly balanced male/female split which is unusual for a casino. However, as you know players can either register on our casino side to receive 50 free spins on their first deposit, or they can register via bingo if they want 50 free tickets and 10 free spins. Of the players that register via PlayOJO bingo, 70% are female, and of all those players that deposit, 77% are female.
I read that stat from the report too and wondered if it had been influenced by both who they reach out to participate and also whether there was a uplift due to a lack of sports betting for much of last year which may have driven an increase in male sign ups at gaming and bingo led brands."
Shay Shaham - 888 Holdings
"In terms of gender, these are the percentage of males registered each month on our bingo brands only (no slots). So I guess there is some truth as it seems the numbers have gone up, but I can't say they were doubled."
- Sep 19: 28.91%
- Oct 19: 29.92%
- Nov 19: 33.97%
- Dec 19: 35.20%
- Jan 20: 30.41%
- Feb 20: 29.57%
- Mar 20: 30.89%
- Apr 20: 31.22%
- May 20: 33.10%
- Jun 20: 31.30%
- Jul 20: 30.18%
- Aug 20: 34.16%
- Sep 20: 43.90%
- Oct 20: 36.53%
- Nov 20: 34.67%
- Dec 20: 34.6%
- Jan 21: 33.33%
- Feb 21: 36.37%
Patrick Duffy - ThePalaces.com
"In our clubs we tend to have a higher than average male participation this is mainly due to the prize money especially when we had London. Generally, the club is 60% female and 40% male. One thing is very apparent is that some men use a womans username name as username but in fact are male."
For the last 12 months online:
- Female: 60%
- Male: 31%
- Not disclosed: 9%
Previous 12 months online:
- Female: 57%
- Male: 30%
- Not disclosed: 13%
Not all the operators I reached out to have replied (or gained permission from legal to share), so I will update this article whenever any more come forward.
My impression overall is that we probably are seeing an overall increase in males, which will vary by brand. But on the whole, there is no evidence I've seen direct from operators to back up the claims of a "seismic shift" in the gender balance in online bingo.
If you're a bingo operator reading this, please get in touch and let me know what stats you've seen since lockdown.