I'm sure we've all seen the adverts on the telly and on the internet inviting us to play bingo, but I have never really got it. Why would I want to spend my hard earned money in the hope I could win some back, when we all know the chances of doing that are very slim.
I used to play bingo with my Nan at the local social club when I was a kid, but it wasn't my money I was spending! Plus compulsive gambling is a serious problem for some and I wasn't sure making it ready available on the TV and Internet was a good move.
However I only had my childhood experiences to base my thoughts on, so decided to give a go.
I created an account on the new Netmums Bingo Room through Sky Bingo, chose my bingo name (an inspired 123FayC) logged into the room at 8pm and I was off ready to flap my bingo wings into the bargain!
The first few minutes were like a whirlwind. The screen seemed full of information, I didn't have a clue what was going or what I should be doing. Soon noticed a chat box and did what all good communicators do and typed
'Hello, I'm new. What do I do now???? Please help'
Within seconds another player called CM Tiffany, explained I'd joined the room mid game. When a winner was called I'd have the option to buy cards for the next one.
What I didn't realise at the time was that Tiffany was the 'moderator' or help person for the room. She was brilliant. Chatted with everyone throughout the evening with helpful advice no matter what was asked. I asked and there will be a help person for every Netmums session. So if you are unsure, take advantage, don't be shy!
I needn't have worried about working out what to do, what seemed to be a blur of numbers, colours and noise, as a watched started to make sense
I could go into loads of detail about how to use it here, but really you don't need it. The site is intuitive if you watch for a few minutes. You can easily work out what's going on.
When I played, card prices were as little as a penny each with the most expensive being 25 pence. Payouts were for 1 line, 2 lines and a full house. The amounts won ranging between £3 and £50. Card prices and payouts varied throughout the evening.
When the game is in play, your numbers are automatically checked off (unless you change this option) which leaves you free to enjoy the chat. The guys in the room that day were a friendly bunch, swapping names, locations and ages of kids. This is a good feature of the site, a real plus point. Yes, you are sat in your living room/dining room/tucked up in bed but you can still have a natter with people and get know some of the regulars into the bargain. (plus no babysitters required or to dress up and apply the slap!)
Two hours flew by and I did enjoy myself, however the fact the computer does all the work for you, did leave me feeling what was the point of playing.
You can see how much you are spending at each stage of the proceedings and if you do run out of funds mid game, it will allow you top up your credit, taking the money from your credit/debit card registered when setting up the account.
It was at this point, a safety feature came into its own. When I set up my account, I was asked how often and by how much I would like to top up my credit. It started from as little as £5 per month. This does allow a bit of a safety net for someone getting carried away in the moment and adding a money here and there, until it mounts up to a large credit card bill hitting the mat at the end of the month.
It was a good way to spend a couple of hours and you don't have to spend a lot of money to join in if you don't want to. I can imagine virtually meeting up with a couple of friends, drinking a glass of wine or a cup tea and spending about the same amount for a good takeaway to play. However, even with the safety feature described, I think it would be very easy to spend more money if you really wanted to.
So have I changed my mind about online gambling? I still think its too easy for people susceptible to gambling to get swept up and caught up with the whole thing. But if you play sensibly, see the stake money as the same amount you would spend on a night out with the girls or the boys, and play for entertainment, not profit, then it was great night.
Now for the legal bit!