What is the Difference Between Bingo and Tombola?

Bingo and Tombola are very popular raffle-based games requiring punters to mark numbered squares or tiles on their tickets. Bingo is the version of the game often played in the UK and the USA, while Tombola originated in Italy and is still very popular today. On the surface, both games look identical, but there are some subtle differences between them, so let’s look at them.

What is the Difference Between Bingo and Tombola?

The Specifics of Tombola

Tombola is a fun game where players have one or more numbered tickets. Here, a host calls out numbers from 1-90 one at a time, and players mark those numbers on their tickets. The ticket has 27 spaces which are aligned in 9 columns by 3 rows and each row has 5 numbers and 4 blank spaces.

The host calls out the numbers, and players need to mark the spaces in their cards when their numbers get called out. The game finishes when you fulfil one of the following conditions:

  • Early Five – you need to mark the first 5 numbers on the card
  • Top Line –  you need to clear all 5 numbers on the top row
  • Middle Line – All numbers on the middle row need to be completed
  • Bottom Lime – you need to complete all numbers on the bottom row
  • Full-House – all 15 numbers need to be marked

There are some additional winning combinations in Tombola, such as Four Corners and Pyramid. These will count as winning combinations when announced in advance. Should you have a ticket that has a winning pattern, you will receive a prize that is pre-determined.


Getting to Know Bingo Better

Bingo has similar gameplay to Tombola, as players need to mark called-out numbers on their cards. Depending on the game versions, the host can have different numbers to call out, but usually, the host will call out 75 numbers.

Each number group will correspond to one of the letters in the word “BINGO”, and it goes as follows:

  • B: 1-15
  • I: 16-30
  • N: 31-45
  • G: 46-60
  • O: 61-75

The bingo card has a 5×5 structure, with the centre spot being a blank spot. Before the bingo round starts, the host will announce target patterns for players to form, and once you complete a pattern, you need to alert the host you have done so. In a live version of this game, this is traditionally done by saying the word ‘Bingo’.

Bingo is similarly played in the UK and the US, so the IRS and the UK Gambling Commission have the same definitions for the game.


Differences Between Bingo and Tombola

As seen above, both games have striking similarities, but there are more differences than their names. Luckily for all players, these differences are small, so learning how to play the game and understanding all specifics are straightforward processes. Differences between Bingo and Tombola are grouped into two categories.


The first category comes in the number of cards. Tombola tickets have 15 numbers with a structure of 5 numbers in 3 rows. On the other side, Bingo tickets have 25 numbers on a 5×5 grid structure, with the centre space completely blank.

If Tombola has a smaller requirement for filling squares, the game sessions can be longer. Bingo is different, as each column in the game has a set of numbers corresponding to the letters in the word “BINGO”. This means that you can have a quick Bingo session whenever you feel like it.


Every time you complete a pattern in Bingo, the game will automatically end, and all punters will need to buy new tickets if they want to play the next session. That is different in Tombola, as the session will continue running even if the punter completes a winning pattern of any kind.

Here, you have a good chance to win several rounds in the same session if you have a winning ticket. Moreover, you also have the opportunity to complete more than one pattern on the same ticket in Tombola.


Final Thoughts

All in all, Bingo and Tombola have different gameplays and quirks that are unique to one or the other game. Different players will prefer different games, which is exactly why Bingo and Tombola are both available to play.

Regardless of their differences and your taste, one thing is sure – both lottery games are very fun and engaging, so you won’t have a problem with your gaming experience. Lastly, these games are very easy to understand, so you can start playing in no time if you so wish.

Last updated: Jan 24, 2023

Lillian Grey

183 Articles

Lillian Grey is a long time online bingo and slots player who started putting her thoughts down on digitial paper around 2008. Having been covering the industry for quite some time, she is able to spot the good from the bad when it comes to online bingo. An ever present at indsutry conferences and events, Lillian likes to meet fellow bingo enthusiasts to share stories and ideas, with maybe a glass of wine (or two) involved! When not covering the ever changing world of online bingo, she likes to read a good book and go for family walks in the forest.

Back to top