Play bingo in the UK? Then chances are you’re already well acquainted with the Gala Bingo brand. Gala is the biggest UK bingo company operating 166 halls nationally, with a quarter of a million people passing through its clubs’ doors each week for their bingo fix. Allied to the fact that the weekly prize money paid out is nearly £30 million (!), it’s fair to day that this is one company that should have the experience and clout to deliver a top notch online bingo experience.
Gala previously delivered its online bingo in partnership with the popular St. Minver network but in early 2006 it decided to relaunch using its own bespoke software, and it is now a far more distinctive proposition. The previous site, despite sharing its look and feel with some other online bingo halls, offered some great gaming, so Gala’s decision to tear it down and ‘go it alone’ is brave. But, more importantly, has it raised the bar in delivering the Bingo hit to match Gala’s high street halls? Is it still “The Bingo That Gets You Buzzing” as Gala claim?
Well, sticking with the ‘buzzing’ theme, Gala’s rock-solid reputation in the real world bingo business, does mean that even the most nervous newcomer to online bingo can be assured that they are not going to be stung at this site. With safe and secure play a given with Gala, we can therefore quickly turn our focus to the pursuit of the Bingo buzz promised!
Gala has done a great job in creating a bright, welcoming website with appropriate animation and excellent navigation to help you hunt down all you need to know before embarking on a proper Bingo beano – we’d even go as far as saying that it’s one of the most attractive sites we’ve reviewed to date. But is it just a pretty face? Eyes down . . .
Clicking the front-page clarion call to ‘Play Online Now!’ takes you straight to the console through which all Gala’s games are played, and all without needing to download and install any extra custom software (that is assuming your computer already has the ubiquitous Flash software most modern PCs have pre-installed with their Web browsers). We are also pleased to report that Gala’s console worked flawlessly when tested with an Apple Mac too, which is a very welcome improvement on its previous site.
Getting to play online with Gala requires joining up, but this is a relatively simple, quick, online process that – once complete – gives you immediate access to the games themselves. You can view the games console to get a taste of the look and feel of Gala’s games before committing to play, but the chat is disabled so to get a real idea of whether you like the atmosphere here you do need to register. This brings us to our first criticism of the new Gala site. Previously a free £1 bonus to all new players on registration, without requiring a deposit, was a nice way to let them really test-drive the Gala experience. Now there is no such bonus (and bonuses in general is an issue we’ll return to later) so you are now expected to commit some cash to try things out. We think this is a backwards step.
Whilst we think it is disappointing that there’s currently no free-trial of the games, we don’t think you’ll be disappointed by Gala if you do decide to make this your Bingo home online. The quality of Gala’s round-the-clock games is really first-rate, with a clear layout and the chat facilities we think so crucial to the online bingo experience seamlessly integrated into the playing screen. Sensible user options let you tailor things to your taste (and believe us, after a few minutes you will be looking for the mute button to kill the irritating Disco muzak loop played between games!), and the console size is adjustable too, which is a relief as we found it initially launched in a laughably small window that had us looking for a magnifying glass to read the text. A great selection of instant win and casino games are also accessible to enjoy some non-bingo fun if you are waiting for a new bingo game to start or fancy a break from chatting. Speaking of chat, Gala can boast some of the busiest chatrooms we’ve seen – some full to capacity even in the early morning sessions – plus the ever present Chat Masters keep things lively and nicely moderated with a light, friendly touch.
At the time of this review promotions seemed to be in a state of development, but the promise of non-cash prizes from Minis to beach holidays looks very appealing to us. We can also only assume that Gala are also developing some Bonus incentives too, because we have to report that there were precisely none when we came to play . . . unless of course Gala is so confident that its Bingo is so good, that it doesn’t need to tempt new players with traditional Welcome Bonuses! We shall wait and see.
Even if you are not already sold on the Gala brand and its excellent reputation in the UK bingo business, you really owe it to yourself to explore this buzzing online bingo site. With the amazing deposit bonus (deposit £10 and play with £40) – we think the new site has definitely upped its game another notch.