There are many traditions that, although popular around the world, tend to have been embraced with enhanced fervour in the British Isles. Cups of tea, Kylie Minogue, and complaining about the weather are just a few examples of globally popular things that British people seem to have really made into their own.
Another example is bingo, one of the world’s oldest betting games. Although bingo halls exist in over 100 countries and are played by all strata of society, it has taken on a unique pride of place within the landscape of British culture.
An estimated 3.5 million people in the UK actively play bingo in some form, a proportion of the population that dwarfs the bingo community in virtually any other country. But why is the UK so crazy about bingo?
How Bingo-Mad is Britain?
While the number of bingo halls in the UK today has fallen from several thousand to just under 400, the vast majority of the country’s 3.5 million bingo players now play online, demonstrating that the game has not been immune to the technological and social shifts of the past two decades.
What’s more, people looking for bingo online to play at home now have a staggering array of choice, with popular online platforms offering dozens of different themed bingo variants all in one place. Rather than mere standard bingo, players can now choose from ‘Deal or No Deal’ bingo, bingo games based on the hit musical Grease, and massive jackpot bingo, all in one place. As the huge size and vibrancy of the UK’s online bingo community would suggest, it seems that the British bingo players never went away – they just went online.
The Rich History of Bingo
Let’s take it back a couple of steps to look at how we got here in the first place. Bingo has been an integral part of Britain’s entertainment landscape since at least the 1920s, despite bingo halls not even being legalized in the UK until 1960. Once they were legalized, the popularity of the game exploded.
By 1963, there were an estimated 14 million registered bingo players across the country, equivalent to more than a third of the population at the time. Bingo halls flourished across British cities, towns, and suburbs as they were a cheap, comfortable place where the postwar generation could spend some of their newly discovered disposable income with their friends.
Bingo halls were not just centers of entertainment, they were also often the heart of the community. The popularity of bingo continued to grow over the decades. When the spread of television reduced the importance of cinemas, thousands of local cinemas were revamped into bingo halls.
Throughout much of the 70s, 80s, and 90s it was not uncommon to see several generations of the same family all playing the same bingo game under one roof. In fact, the local bingo hall was very often the place to be on any given Friday night.
Today, bingo halls are still an important part of the British entertainment landscape, although they have adapted to match the tastes of the age. These days, you can even find the game in a club that will often have craft cocktails, a DJ blasting house music, and gourmet food to keep the revelers happy while they wait for their numbers to appear.
Today, bingo in the UK is just as popular as ever, although the way it is played has changed a lot. Bingo has been a British institution for decades now, and we don’t see it going anyway anytime soon.