The history of bingo in the UK
Bingo is believed to have been introduced to the people of the United Kingdom as far back as the 1800s from Europe and derives from a similar Italian lottery game. By the second half of the 20th century the game had gained popularity and purpose-built venues began to pop up around the country.
Bingo’s popularity was also helped by changes to betting and gambling laws in the UK in the late 1960s and by the 1980s there were an estimated 1600 venues in operation. Going to the bingo was seen as a social occasion and an opportunity to be part of the local community.
90 ball bingo was the most popular variant of the game, but other types including the 30 ball variant and the 75 and 80 ball games were, and still are, enjoyed by many.
Towards the beginning of the 21st century, land-based bingo venues began to suffer as other evening entertainment options became available. The roll out of the world wide web and introduction of online bingo gaming also contributed to a number of venues needing to close.
Over the last couple of decades, online bingo has become increasingly popular with adults across the generations. It is now easy to find the best bingo games online on your phone, tablet or computer and play in any time or place that suits you.
Combined, the online and land-based bingo industry is estimated to be worth more than £910 million in the United Kingdom alone.
While playing bingo in-person may not be as popular as it once was, there is still significant demand for bingo halls around the country. Both younger and older people still like to go for a trip to a bingo hall with friends and enjoy not only the bingo, but the other games and the food and drink on offer at these venues.
Do Brits on staycations visit bingo halls on their holidays?
Yes, bingo remains a popular British pastime and so it is unsurprising that holidaymakers would choose to play this game during the evenings on their staycation. They have more time to relax and have fun than they would at home and many holiday parks regularly offer bingo as one of the entertainment activities.
Bingo is a popular activity at many British seaside town resorts.
Most visited bingo halls in the UK
These are some of the most popular bingo venues around the country:
Merkur Bingo (formally Beacon Bingo)
Merkur Bingo was founded in 1963 by Jimmy Thomas and in 1978 a second venue was opened in Hounslow, West London. Following the success of these bingo halls, the iconic Northampton venue opened in 1991.
However, it wasn’t until 1995 that the company opened its flagship venue in Cricklewood, London. Since this time, it has rolled out electronic games across all its locations.
In 2014, a world record for the highest pay out at a venue was made at Cricklewood. One lucky bingo winner went home with a cool £100,000 prize.
There are a number of different ticket packages on offer at the clubs and both new players and experienced bingo fans are welcome.
Mecca Bingo is another highly successful bingo brand in the UK with halls around the country. Mecca is well known for both online bingo and in-person gaming.
This company is an example of how bingo brands have kept up with the times and adapted their offering to meet changing demand. Mecca runs themed events such as Bonkers Bingo, which combines the game with an evening of entertainment involving DJ line ups, dance offs and hilarious costumes and prizes.
Boots Down Bingo is another Mecca event and is hosted by stars of Ru Paul’s Drag Race UK. The event includes everything from lip sync battles to dancing and is very popular with fans of the show.
Last year, Mecca Bingo celebrated its 60-year anniversary. The first Mecca venue was opened up in Rosehill in the 1960s and was the centre of entertainment and social gatherings at the time.
Mecca is the largest National Bingo Game operator in the United Kingdom and has won a series of awards for its offering.
Gala Bingo and Buzz Bingo
Another well-known name in the bingo world is Gala Bingo which was first created in 1991. Gala Bingo had 126 clubs by 2015 before selling to an investment group, they later rebranded the land-based venues as Buzz Bingo.
All high street Gala venues have now become Buzz Bingo venues and both Gala Bingo and Buzz Bingo exist as online bingo platforms.
While an increasing number of bingo fans, both new and older, now enjoy playing the game online, visiting a local bingo hall remains an exciting social occasion.
These venues have continued to expand their offering and introduce digital gaming products in order to keep up with the times. Therefore, land-based bingo venues are here to stay in the UK.
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