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Why rural Swedes are crazy for car bingo

Published fredag 4 augusti kl 09.00
First-time player: It's not just for old people any more.
(3:54 min)
About 200 cars come for every bingo session.
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About 200 cars come for every bingo session. Credit: Richard Orange / Sveriges Radio
Beatrix (middle) and Sandra (right) have their winning cards checked before receiving a pay out. Credit: Richard Orange / Sveriges Radio
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Beatrix (middle) and Sandra (right) have their winning cards checked before receiving a pay out. Credit: Richard Orange / Sveriges Radio
Simon and Jonathan with Jonathan's mother and sister. Credit: Richard Orange / Sveriges Radio
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Simon and Jonathan with Jonathan's mother and sister. Credit: Richard Orange / Sveriges Radio
Barbro Karlsson, the event's organiser, selling bingo blocks. Credit: Richard Orange / Sveriges Radio
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Barbro Karlsson, the event's organiser, selling bingo blocks. Credit: Richard Orange / Sveriges Radio

A cacophony of honking breaks out over the pine trees, signaling the start of another weekly session of drive-in bingo. Radio Sweden travelled to a remote Uppland village to find out why rural Swedes park in line to block out numbers.

Barbro Karlsson, who organizes the Wednesday ‘bilbingo’ or drive-in bingo, at the football grounds in Strömsberg said her games normally draw in at least 200 participants.

People shell out SEK 40 for a pack of ten triple bingo cards – normally spending SEK 300 or so, and can win thousands.

“It’s very popular in the summer,” she said.

The event has been happening weekly every summer for about 40 years. But recently, Karlsson has noticed a change.

“There’s more young people,” she says. “They can win money, they fika [drink coffee and eat cake]. It’s fun.”

Most of the participants are still middle-aged or pensioners, but there is a noticeable contingent of young people here - some in souped-up vintage American cars.

And it’s not just Strömsund, there are more than 80 regular drive-in bingo events throughout the summer. That's more than ten a day throughout the summer.  

Helena, from the nearby village of Söderfors, has her own theory as to why drive-in bingo, which also has a following in parts of Canada and Ireland, is popular in Sweden.

“There’s not so much to do here,” she laughed. “You can go swimming during the day and play bingo at night.”

Listen in to find out what Simon, Jonathan, Johan and Beatrice get out of it.

Our journalism is based on credibility and impartiality. Swedish Radio is independent and not affiliated to any political, religious, financial, public or private interests.
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