The scene is a large, open field filled with cars. Drivers bought bingo cards from a booth on their way in, and now sit in their cars, watching bingo numbers being drawn on a large screen on one edge of the field. When a player wins, they just toot their horn, and one of the organizers comes by to hand over their winnings. Players are free to smoke as often as they like, and if they get hungry, they just ring up the food delivery boy who brings over a hot meal.
While this sounds like pure fantasy, it describes very accurately a new bingo phenomenon that is taking the Ireland by storm. Drive-in bingo clubs do not yet enjoy the popularity of online bingo games in Ireland, but it’s a concept that is catching on fast. Some doubt it will be very successful in cold winter months, but summertime bingo drive-ins could soon be found scattered across the countryside.
Unfortunately, the legality of these drive-in bingo clubs is questionable. Irish gambling laws are quite strict about who is allowed to offer land-based and internet bingo in Ireland, and it is not clear whether these operators have the proper licenses to host the drive-through bingo games. One operator has at least expressed an interest in keeping things legal, and plans to open up discussion with the Gambling Commission to see how to proceed. Either way, players love it.
“It’s a great laugh and there’s been a lot of positive reaction,” said one organizer. “You can relax in your own car with friends or family, have a smoke if you want, and enjoy the game and not worry about parking. It is really catching on, and word of mouth is helping out with this.”
Because of the low overhead costs of these bingo clubs, prize money tends to be higher. So far, drive-in bingo halls have been spotted in Meath, Dublin and Wexford counties, and the phenomenon is spreading fast.