Well, we have definitely thrown our news net out further today! All the way to Sweden in fact!
Due to the decline of traditional bingo halls in the country, mirrored by similar trends across many countries in the world (including the UK), many in Sweden are being attracted to what is dubbed ‘Drive-in Bingo’.
Every younger fans of bingo, some of whom have never played bingo before, are gathering in the Swedish countryside to play bingo whilst parked up in their cars!
Frida Stan, a 27 year old personal assistant to a disabled person, says: “For me this is the summer – when the drive-in bingo starts you know it is almost here”. She is 8 months pregnant and is enjoying a last chance to socialise before the baby comes.
Frida and her friend, 26 year old childcare worker Stina Broberg, have parked their car along with around 300 other locals in a field near the small south-western town of Lidkoping.
They paid around £14 for bingo cards needed in the many games being held on the first night of the drive-in bingo season. It lasts for 3 hours and is an ideal opportunity for many to socialise and to try to win cash prizes.
That night the prize pot was around £3,100, and the more people that participate in the event, the bigger the jackpot builds up to. When someone completes a row, they blow their horn and an official comes over to check their cards.
Anders Manheden of the West Swedish Sports Confederation, a non-profit organisation that bought up many of the bingo halls when they closed to keep money into sports, said: “The drive-ins are out in rural places, far from the nearest bingo hall.”
Christian Bayard licenses the games for West Gotaland county, issuing 30 licenses for drive-ins, with the largest game bringing in 5m kronor. Sadly, it seems that this craze has slowly started to decline in popularity since its birth in the early 1990s – blamed on more Swedes moving to cities.
This drive-in bingo night in Lidkoping showed how much the dedicated fans still love their summer pastime however.
“People take it very seriously and they keep us on our toes”, says Svensson, 56, who organises the drive-in with his brother Mikael. Their main aim is to raise money for a local wrestling club, and they expect to take 1.5m kronor over the 14 week season.
The jackpot on the night was won by a nurse who came with her mother-in-law – they were ecstatic to have won as they have been coming on and off for 8 years.
Two of the youngest players summed up the thoughts of many of the younger generation taking part. 24 year old AmberJohansson says: “It’s cool and it’s cheap. We come with coffee and candy – it’s a social thing. And it’s becoming younger and younger.” Schoolgirl Emma Karvik, 19, works at the sessions to help raise money for her football team. “It’s a nice way for young people to hang out, and they can also win some cash”, she says. “And anyway, I guess there isn’t much else to do round here.”
We think drive-in bingo sounds fantastic and a really lovely way to enjoy nature, socialise, to meet new people, raise money for local causes, and hopefully – win some money for yourself! We wonder if this could ever happen in the UK?