A Brief History of the Bingo Hall


Nowadays, bingo halls aren’t necessarily as popular as they used to be. This isn’t really a surprise though, considering the fact that online bingo has taken off in such a big way. While a town’s bingo venue used to be packed to the rafters with old and young alike, it is now only the older generation found at most bingo rooms in the UK – although some of the bigger and more glamourous locations do still attract a younger clientele as well.

What are the Origins of Bingo in the UK?

The origins of bingo can be traced all the way back to the 16th century, when a game similar to the modern version was played in Italy. This game then transitioned over to neighbouring countries, however never really caught on in the UK – although wealthy French players embraced it almost instantly.

The game we know and love today was first created back in the 1920s, by an American called Edwin Lowe. He saw a similar game being played at a funfair, and was amazed by its popularity. The enterprising American then went home to New York and created the game – although he would never have believed his game would still be being played in this day and age. The game spread across America and was hugely popular by the 1940s.

It wasn’t until the 1960s that the game came over to the UK though, but it soon exploded in popularity once it hit the shoreline. This explosion in popularity led to many purpose-built venues being created for fans of the game, and to the establishment of some of the nation’s best-loved names, such as Mecca and Gala. Before long, every town and city in the country had a bingo hall to visit, where they could play a bingo game and socialise with friends at the same time.

What Was the Appeal of Bingo Halls in the UK?

It has to be remembered that bingo first became popular in the UK when there was no internet around, and television was certainly not as good as it is today. Therefore, people wanted to get out of their homes on a Saturday night, and bingo represented the perfect choice. After all, where else could you talk, socialise and drink, while also having the chance to win some huge amounts of money in the process?

Bingo only increased in popularity when large companies started to make a mark, and the reason was simple: these large companies had the resources behind them to introduce new concepts, such as jackpots linked across multiple venues in the country. This meant that the prizes got even bigger, and thus the attendance at bingo halls in the UK increased as a result.

A bingo room was also a much more family-friendly place than many other nightspots during the time – although children were, of course, prohibited from actually playing the games. These children would later grow up to remember the bingo hall with nostalgia, though, and would eventually come to play at them themselves.

Why Have Bingo Halls Declined?

Up until 2005, bingo venues were doing great business, and more and more venues were opening every single year. After this, though, bingo venues saw a decline in numbers, and the sight of a derelict former bingo room became a common one throughout the UK. But why was this? The answer is a simple one: online bingo.

Online bingo revolutionised the way in which the game was played. Many saw the fantastic bingo bonus offers being run by online bingo sites, as well as the huge number of different games on offer, and decided that stepping out of the front door to play was no longer necessary. Just one click and the bingo website would be there, and you’d be able to chat with players from throughout the world.

What’s more, while the prizes at bingo rooms increased over the years, they simply couldn’t match the prizes offered at the biggest online bingo sites. Winning a few hundred pounds was no longer enough, as bingo operators started to offer huge progressive jackpots, which could potentially be worth hundreds of thousands of pounds instead. This helped to make the choice about where to play bingo an easy one: the online world had the edge in nearly every area.

What is the Future for Bingo Rooms?

There can be no avoiding the fact that bingo rooms are never going to return to the popularity they enjoyed before the internet came along and crashed the party. Don’t expect bingo rooms to disappear from the world of gambling altogether, though, as they are still loved by many, especially those who have been playing in them for years.

Something needs to be done to ensure that the popularity of bingo halls doesn’t continue to wane though. New innovations have to be thought up, and bingo venue owners need to come up with a way of attracting a younger crowd once again. Perhaps the answer is to incorporate bingo halls into larger entertainment complexes, or even have them in land-based casinos?

It should also be mentioned that many of the major brands aren’t in danger of going out of business, though. Names such as Gala and Mecca haven’t stubbornly sat and watched the online world take over – they’ve joined them. So, these powerhouse names in the world of bingo will be around for a long time yet, even if their biggest presence is now online.

Online or Land-Based Bingo: Which is Best?

This is a really tough question to answer, however, most now prefer to play bingo online. If it’s big prizes you are after, as well as a large selection of games, then online bingo is the perfect choice for you. Similarly, online bingo is perfect for those not wanting to leave their house on a cold, rainy November evening, but who still want to enjoy a game or two of bingo.

Where land-based bingo has the advantage is the social aspect though. While it’s possible to chat to players online, there’s no substitute for actual face-to-face conversations with friends, had over a few glasses of wine or beer. As already stated though, which you choose is entirely down to your own personal preference.

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