Young Swedes Can’t Get Enough of this Innovative Take on Bingo

innerdrive17032016Imagine yourself taking a ride deep in the Swedish countryside. You’ve got an insatiable itch to play your favorite number-based game, bingo, but there’s not a bingo hall for miles. In recent years, waning popularity and the rise of online games have taken a serious toll on the bingo hall scene. You keep driving, but the urge to play bingo persists. There’s just something about a numbered card and a dauber that gets your blood pumping. Suddenly, as if by divine intervention, you see a hand painted sign on the side of the road. It has one simple word, the only word you care to see at the moment: BINGO.

At this point, you turn the wheel and find yourself in an empty field with hundreds of parked cars. If you didn’t know any better, you may assume that you’d just stumbled upon a drive-in movie theater. That can’t be, though, because there’s no screen to be found. After a moment or two, a yellow-jacketed man knocks on your window, and you’re introduced to a whole new world of bingo action. While bingo halls have been falling by the wayside, one quirky form of bingo has continued to thrive. Welcome to the world of drive-in bingo !

Drive-in bingo is the perfect mix of the Swedish love of bingo and 1950s Americana. Players sit in their cars and enjoy the company of friends and family while numbers are announced over a loudspeaker. Daubers are hard at work across the field, as competitive family members approach the completion of a line. When victory is in hand, the winner honks the car horn to let the other players know that the game is finished. An official rushes over to check the card, and prizes are dispensed.

While this may seem strange, drive-in bingo is a cult classic in Sweden. You don’t have to take our word for it, though. Swedish indie musician Jens Lekman sums up the game in his quirky song Friday Night at the Drive-In Bingo. Let’s take a closer look at the cultural phenomenon of drive-in bingo.

A Great Cause

As previously mentioned, the proliferation of online gaming has had a major impact on the Swedish bingo industry. While traditional bingo halls were formerly dotted throughout the country, high overhead costs and low attendance has led to a host of closures through the years. According to Anders Manheden, a member of the West Swedish Sports Confederation, most private companies have given up on bingo halls because they don’t make enough money. Enter drive-in bingo.

Drive-in bingo avoids the problem of overhead by taking the bingo experience outdoors. Players are free to sit in their cars or have a picnic while enjoying the Swedish countryside during multi-hour bingo tournaments. At the height of the summer, these events can draw huge crowds. Last year, on the first night of the bingo season, more than 300 locals voyaged to an empty field near the small southwestern town of Lidköping to enjoy some bingo fun. Each player pays about $22 for a set of cards that lasts throughout a three-hour bingo extravaganza. Winners are treated to a portion of a huge prize pot of nearly $5,000.

Of course, bingo is never just about the prizes. Drive-in bingo is also a great way for local sports teams to raise money. The games are typically hosted by volunteers in an effort to raise funding while also strengthening local communities. Many families turn to the drive-in bingo events as a regular outing, with some regulars having attending events since the early 1990s. While Sweden’s city-dwellers may not be aware of the country’s innovative take on bingo, families residing in the countryside flock to the events for a unique slice of nostalgia for a time that never was.

A Cheap Night Out

Bingo can often serve as the foundation for a social gathering, and drive-in bingo is no exception. Cars full of friends and family flood the field for the chance to take part in an affordable night out on the town. Throw in a few cups of coffee and some candy, and you’ve got the experience of a drive-in movie combined with the excitement of bingo. Head over to the hotdog stall to conquer your cravings, and you’ll be supporting the local football team along the way. When you get a chance to experience all of these benefits, as well as the possibility of winning some cash, it’s easy to see why drive-in bingo has become a tradition throughout Sweden.

Bingo is enjoyed around the world in many forms. In the U.S., players flock to local bingo halls in order to socialize and win prizes. In the U.K., housie takes center stage as residents of all ages look to take a dance with Lady Luck. In rural Sweden, people drive their cars to an empty field and soak in a bit of nature while pursuing a piece of a cash jackpot. As long as you’re enjoying yourself, there’s no wrong way to play bingo.
The biggest draw of drive-in bingo was described by Emma Karvik, a 19 year old schoolgirl who often works at the event’s hotdog stand in order to raise money for her football team. In an interview with the Guardian, she said, “It’s a nice way for young people to hang out, and they can also win some cash. And anyway, I guess there isn’t much else to do round here.”

If you find yourself in a place where there isn’t much to do, why not conquer your boredom with a few games of bingo? 123BingoOnline offers all of your favorite bingo games alongside a bevy of lucrative promotional offers. Grab a seat, and take a card. Get your virtual dauber ready, and prepare to mark some squares. When there’s not much to do, nothing hits the spot like a few games of bingo. With no need for strategy or skill, it offers a relaxing gaming experience that can be difficult to top.