A board gamer who honed his skills playing lotto for fun with his family during holidays, Heng Pisey, 32, has turned his attention to a similar game where he can compete for prizes with strangers at Aeon Mall 2 – Bingo.
“It’s very similar to what Cambodians play at home. The only difference is that at home, we use pieces shaken and drawn by hand from the bag while in Bingo, a machine is used to mix the Bingo balls,” Pisey says.
He says sometimes it’s played for money, other times for prizes, and it’s even used in classrooms around the globe to teach children foreign languages.
The marketing director of Pacific Bingo, SC Koo, tells The Post: “This is a new form of entertainment in Cambodia. Bingo is often used as an instructional tool in American schools and in teaching English as a foreign language in many countries.
“Typically, the numbers [on the Bingo card] are replaced with words, pictures, or math problems,” says Koo, a Malaysian who has been working in the Cambodian travel industry on and off for the past 25 years, where he specialised in European tour packages for Cambodians visiting Europe.
He says custom Bingo programmes have allowed teachers and parents to play the game using their content.
Koo says Tombola, a game that was used in Germany during the 19th century to teach math, spelling and history operates on a similar concept.
“We believe Bingo helps families bond, increases kids’ memories and focus, and provides endless entertainment for groups of friends. It may even prevent Parkinson’s Disease as the game requires focus,” he says.
At Aeon Mall Sen Sok City, or Aeon Mall 2 as it is also called, Bingo is played for prizes and isn’t considered gambling, says Koo.
“Bingo is a game of chance in which each player matches numbers printed in different arrangements on cards with the numbers that the game host draws at random,” he says.
If the player’s card contains the number that is drawn, they mark the number on their card.
When a player marks a complete row of numbers, they call out “Bingo!” to alert all participants to a winning card, which prompts the game host to examine the card for verification of the win.
“Our prizes are mostly sponsored by tenants of Aeon Mall 2 in terms of goods or vouchers to exchange for meals, goods or services. Some are storybooks or health supplements. We want to encourage youngsters to read more and keep healthy,” he says.
Japanese businessman Tommy Date founded Wow Bingo in Cambodia to provide people with some fun as they grapple with Covid-19.
Koo says that Date came across Bingo while on a visit to the Philippines last September, where he was taken aback to see the game so widely played there. He immediately travelled to the US, where he reached an agreement to be the sole distributor of Bingo machines and tickets for Indochina.
Bingo machines are used to mix the ping-pong balls marked with numbers before a host pulls one and reveals it to the players.
Koo says: “Since the Covid-19 pandemic started last December, countries all around the world have been affected and most businesses at shopping malls have dropped. By introducing this new game, we hope to draw customers back to Aeon Mall 2.”
At a friendly environment which resembles a restaurant, Wow Bingo features a stage where a Bingo machine sits and an emcee to entertain the audience and call the numbers.
Koo says: “Every Saturday and Sunday, we have a live performance by our international entertainer Mr Funky Sueyoshi who goes live on Facebook in Cambodia and Japan.
“We are now seeking approval from the Aeon HQ in Japan to broadcast live shows in all Aeon Malls in Cambodia, Japan, Vietnam, China, Indonesia, Thailand and Malaysia.”
Wow Bingo has vowed to follow the safety regulations set by the Ministry of Health concerning Covid-19.
“All staff has been instructed to comply [with the regulations] and to brief our customers to do the same. Signage is displayed everywhere in the hall to remind customers about social distancing. We supply face masks and hand sanitisers,” Koo says.
Upcoming events, which are subject to approval from Aeon, he says, include a back to school event where winners will receive vouchers to exchange for their favourite books and a “Les Cocktails Sunday Brunch Bingo” (for those 21 and above) where players can win a free brunch with cocktails.