Many people would think online bingo is a relatively new craze that's followed on from the explosion of online casinos and poker rooms. However, as far back as 2003 (which is a long time ago in the internet gambling world!) some sites were starting to meet the needs of online bingo players. Once such site was Bingo Café and since this site has been operating for over 5 years now, I decided to see what it is that keeps a player coming back to this Leap Frog-powered bingo room.
Those that are familiar with online bingo rooms may be used to playing at no-download sites - indeed the majority of sites I've played at use software that runs in a player's browser. However, bingo rooms powered by Leap Frog software (as this one is) require players to download software before a player can get in to the action. Thankfully this is not a hard or time consuming process and the 544k installer should be easy to obtain for even those on the slowest of connections. Having said that, the installation program does then request further files from the internet which may take slightly longer to complete.
As stated earlier, Bingo Café is one of the older bingo rooms available online and in fact I remembered I'd played here before. As such, I simply entered my old username and password combination to log in. However, new players will have to create an account to be able to play. This is a simple process, although even though this site does not accept US players, only the US Dollar is accepted as playing currency. Many online players will probably be familiar with this currency though and after a quick bit of form filling a new player should be ready to go.
Once within the software players will find themselves in a virtual recreation of a cosmopolitan bar / café type environment (linking in with the name of the site I guess). A nice touch is that all players are shown in 3D and as such it's possible to see any other player that is connected. Similarly, as a player decides where they want to play (e.g. bingo, slots etc.) their 3D avatar is seen to walk to the appropriate part of this virtual world. It can actually seem quite bizarre to see these 3D similar-looking people seemingly walking around all on their own!
As hinted in the above paragraph, some slot and video poker games are available at Bingo Café. However, these are not particularly impressive and although fun to play on from time to time, I am sure the majority of people will be logged in and so it was up the virtual stairs I went to enter the bingo lobby.
Of course, players cannot join in any of the available games without making a purchase. Although actually that's not quite true - new players are thanked for joining the site with a nice no-deposit $10 bonus. Since I have been a member of the site for a while though I wasn't entitled to any no-deposit bonus and so I headed to the cashier part of the bingo room. Unlike many online gambling sites, Bingo Café doesn't have a graphic-heavy cashier, rather a simple menu system is used to allow players to purchase and cash out. I used NeTeller to purchase $100 although credit card, Fire Pay, Click2Pay and ACH transfer are also available. Impressively, the minimum purchase amount at this site is $20 which will appeal to low-rolling players.
Upon returning to the bingo lobby I was surprised to see that even though this was not my first deposit I was still given an instant bonus. In fact bonuses are a big draw at Bingo Café - first-time depositors receive a 100% match worth up to $200 and all future deposits receive the 20% bonus I received. As such, with $120 worth of ammunition I headed back to the lobby part of the software to see if lady luck was with me during this session.
Bingo Café does offer players the chance to wager on a small selection of Video Poker and Slot machines. However, the draw for many players will be the bingo offering and so it was the bingo part of the software I visited next.
Once in the bingo part of the software I discovered that up to 4 bingo rooms are open at any one time. However, throughout my playing session I was limited to playing in just 1 room. Even on future visits I only saw a maximum of 2 rooms open and I am unsure therefore why the ability to host 4 rooms has been built in to the software if this feature is not going to utilised. I suppose though that if people are limited to playing in only 1 or 2 rooms then prize funds are likely to be bigger compared to if people were wagering across a number of rooms. A nice touch is that a game information board is shown outside each virtual bingo room door enabling a player to see stats on card costs, jackpot sizes and number of players in the virtual room.
In terms of the game type played at Bingo Café, only 75-ball bingo is available. This sees players buying square-shaped cards and trying to match a pre-determined pattern on their playing cards as numbers are called. This game only has one jackpot prize although as there is only one winner, this prize can be pretty decent. Nevertheless, fans of the 'European' style 90-ball game will be disappointed as this is just not offered by Bingo Café. I did think this was slightly odd considering 75-ball games tend to be most popular in America and US players are banned from joining in!
Once in the bingo room I found that players have to find an open seat to join in the action. A number of tables are available in each bingo room and as such players join virtual representations of the other connected players. I quite liked this approach as it means players can talk to a smaller group of people and more importantly can see how close other players at your table are to winning! It certainly gets exciting when you can see other players getting close to the prize and you only need one or two numbers for a win!
Purchasing tickets at Bingo Café is easy and although a minimum purchase is enforced (usually around 3 - 5 cards), most cards cost $0.10 or $0.25 which should match the budgets of most players. Similarly, high rollers should be satisfied as the maximum number of tickets that can be purchased is usually very high - in one game I played a person could play 250 tickets if they wished! Of course, this high maximum means the prize pots can grow quite nicely and when I played jackpots stood at around the $40 mark or so. A progressive jackpot is also available during every game which can be won for a call within a set number of balls drawn!
When it comes to the game itself I was impressed with the speed of play. Even though a dealer calls the numbers as they are drawn, this does not slow down the action making playing at Bingo Café a really entertaining experience. The auto-daub feature means a player will never miss a called number and the fact that cards are automatically displayed in 'best to worst' order means it's easy to track how well you are doing. As stated before, it's also possible to see how close players at your table are and it can be quite heart stopping seeing their cards change colour as they get near to a win!
For those that like to interact with other players at the Bingo table, this feature is also provided at Bingo Café. Players can firstly chat with players at their table with 'bubble speech' showing what people are saying. However, there's also a separate chat window that can be activated thus allowing conversation will all those present in the chat room. Chat is fully moderated meaning a representative of Bingo Café is present in the room to encourage conversation, keep talk clean and also to run side chat games. These games didn't seem as generous as ones I'd seen elsewhere, but nevertheless free bingo money can be won which is never a bad thing!
On this occasion my luck really wasn't with me and with only one bingo room open it wasn't like I could try another one! However, I've never had a problem withdrawing funds from Bingo Café with 2-3 business days being the usual time it takes for funds to be sent back to a player. My only criticism is that Bingo Café enforces a $50 minimum withdrawal amount which seems slightly high. Having said that though, a decent win at any of the bingo games offered should see a player's balance reach a level that's suitable for cashing-in.
Support is always something I test when reviewing a place and so before finishing my review I'll talk about the Bingo Café support offering. Email help is available and also live chat. This is good as it means urgent queries can be discussing immediately. However, I did find that whilst live chat is good, some more serious queries (e.g. close account requests) had to be put in writing. Nevertheless, I don't see any problems with this and generally found support to be perfectly acceptable. Telephone support would be a good addition but with live chat available, there is not an overly pressing requirement for this.
In conclusion, Bingo Café is certainly a decent site to play at. It's very solid in terms of its operations - I guess a result of the 5+ years it has been operating. However, this also leads to some of its letdowns. Whilst the offering is good, I just feel the software is beginning to look a little dated. The lack of 90 ball games, for example, and the slightly aging look of the graphics are indicative of the site's age. Nevertheless, there are still some good games to be had and certainly functions such as banking and support operate without problem. For a site that's proved itself over the years, where extra money is readily available and where problems are unlikely to be had, Bingo Café certainly hits the mark.
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As the balls are drawn a player's cards are automatically sorted to show the cards nearest to winning first
A nice feature at Bingo Café is that players can see how well others appear to be doing - the coloured squares in front of other players denote how far off winning they are
A bingo is called! Sadly not for me, which is a shame as the $40 win would have been welcomed!
I chat with my room mates about how badly I seem to be doing this session!
This time I am the winner - a lovely $40 is added to my bank balance
The side chat module allows players to interact with other connected users should they wish
Bingo Café runs in a simple, easy to navigate window making play very easy
Once connected to the Bingo Room, a player can move their 3D avatar around the various available gambling rooms
At the time I am connected only one Bingo Room is in play, although up to 4 can be at certain times of the day
As with a number of Bingo Rooms, Bingo Café lets players bet their money on side slot-type games should they wish