The History of the Bingo Hall
Bingo is still one of the most popular games played across the United Kingdom, despite being around for hundreds of years!
Last Updated on August 18, 2020 by Lillian Grey
This game has really stood the test of time and evolved with the world to remain a firm favourite amongst players. It’s an exciting and fun game, full of suspense, that doesn’t appear to be going anywhere anytime soon. Plus, who doesn’t like being given the chance to take home a massive cash prize?
Nowadays, the focus is online bingo but how did we get to this point? Here, we are taking a looking at the history of the bingo hall and where it all began, up to the modern day.
Where Did Bingo Begin?
Did you know that the game of bingo has been around in various forms for hundreds of years? That’s generations of people who have played and loved this game. Bingo is thought to have originated as a version of the lottery in Italy, way back in 1530! It was then exported around the world and adapted to each country. However, it wasn’t until France created Le Lotto in the 1700s that it became a similar format to the bingo game that we recognise in the present day.
Le Lotto has 90 numbers in the game and tickets were 3 rows with 9 columns. The bingo balls were wooden tokens and these would be picked at random by the bingo caller. Just like 90 ball bingo games today, the aim was to mark off 1 line of numbers to win.
Bingo in the Rest of Europe and the World
After taking off in France, bingo became a firm favourite in nations across the globe. In Germany, during the 19th century, it is thought that they used the game to educate children. Learning numbers, time tables and spelling was all helped through bingo games.
In 1929, we then saw the game take off in the United States of America. Edwin Lowe discovered the game at a carnival and was impressed by the love and enthusiasm players had for the game. At the time, he was a car salesman but decided he had to take the game of bingo back home with him to New York to share it with his friends after staying up all night enjoying the game.
An interesting fun fact about Loew exporting the game is that he attempted to change it at first. The name was changed to Beano, but it was essentially the same game where you would mark off a card of numbers and shout out BEANO! The problem was that one of his friends used BINGO by accident when calling out he had won and this was the name that stuck. He copyrighted the word ‘bingo’ in 1930 and created an official bingo rule book a few years later, both of which helped to create a standard for the game around the world.
As the game grew in popularity in the States, Lowe had to make the game bigger and better too. He hired a maths professor from Columbia University to help him create thousands of cards, each with a different number combination. It was a whole lot of work setting up just one game of bingo back in the day!
When Did Bingo Fever Hit the UK?
Bingo was a staple game loved by Americans throughout the 50 states by the 1940s and it was estimated that there over 10,000 games of bingo being played every week. It became a massive fundraising tool for charities and churches and raised millions of dollars for great causes. Just like most things, because it was popular in the US, it was then exported to the UK. The main form of entertainment in the 1950s was the cinema and theatre, so there really was nothing like bingo. The television also came along and more and more people were watching this and looking for other forms of entertainment, causing cinemas to close their doors.
Many cinema halls realised that they would need to adapt if they wanted to survive. Some changed into concert halls, others dance halls, but lots opted to become bingo halls! When bingo was first making its way onto the scene in the UK, many cinemas in London would split the week and show films for a few nights, then become a bingo hall on the other nights. However, it quickly became apparent that bingo was the more popular option and attracting the most people, so many venues made the decision to permanently change to bingo halls. Converting cinemas to bingo halls was very easy as it was simply a process of removing the cinema screen. Lights were then usually upgraded to ensure people could see their bingo cards but often the cinema seats were left as it was too expensive to remove them due to the steppings.
Bingo was also a tool used after the end of the Second World War by local councils to help repair Britain and boost morale across the country.
1968 Gaming Act
The 1968 Gaming Act was passed by parliament and helped the bingo and gambling industry massively. Clubs were allowed to have slot machines and were named Bingo and Social Clubs. This was a social event for people to attend as they could meet up with their friends, have a drink, get something to eat and enjoy bingo and slots.
It was over the next few decades that we saw lots of bingo companies merging and being bought over. Many of these names are still the biggest players today such as Coral, Gala and Mecca. As the old cinema buildings began to crumble, new purpose-built bingo halls were introduced instead. These were usually built just outside of town centres and provided even more space. However, you will still find the odd bingo hall that was once an old cinema, such as the former Sheffield Odeon.
When Did Bingo Halls in the UK Reach their Peak?
The peak of bingo halls was arguably in the 1960s. During this time, it was favoured across the country and became a regular past-time and form of entertainment for people. It was estimated during the 1960s there were over 1000 bingo halls and 1 million players every month. However, all good things must come to an end and while there are still many bingo halls throughout the UK, they are not as popular as they once were. There are around 400 bingo halls now across the UK but as the bingo hall declined, online bingo thrived.
The Rise of Online Bingo
Over the decades from the 1960s to 1990s, technology grew at a rapid rate and this was partly responsible for the decline in bingo halls. However, as we have seen for centuries, bingo is an incredibly resilient game and it adapted to fit into this new world. Hence, the birth of online bingo!
The first game of online bingo was launched in 1996, however, it is safe to say that back then it was not popular and did not appear to be any competition for the traditional bingo halls. However, over time, as technology progressed, the online bingo games became better and better and began to overtake the physical bingo halls in popularity.
During the mid to late 2000s was the time when everything started to move online. Whether this was to do clothes shopping, book tickets or manage your bank accounts, online was clearly the way forward and online gambling was no different. It wasn’t just bingo games that experienced a surge of popularity online but also all other forms of gambling including slots, sports betting and even table and card games.
Is this the End of Bingo Halls?
Although there has been a phenomenal rise in players moving to online bingo, bingo halls aren’t going anywhere just yet. There are still many bingo halls across the country and while there is a community online, it still can’t fully replicate the social aspect that physical bingo halls provide. There has also been a rise in younger people enjoying bingo with live events such as Bongo’s Bingo taking the bingo world by storm. This event combines bingo with a night of drinking, dancing and hilarious prizes, making sure that live bingo events are still firmly part of the UK entertainment scene.
The Wide Range of Online Bingo Games
Online bingo games only offered the standard 90 ball bingo at first, however, over the years this has developed into a huge variety of different bingo variations. There really is a bingo game to suit every type of player!
Of course, the 90 ball bingo format is still as popular as ever, but there are many other games that players love online too. This includes games of 75 ball, 80 ball, 50 ball and 30 ball bingo. Each of these games has similar rules to the classic game, however, they have their differences in how wins are achieved and the bingo ticket structure.
Online Bingo Today
Online bingo has been massively successful and is worth around £80 million per year in the UK. While there were around 50,000 online bingo players in 2008, in just over a decade, this has risen to a whopping 3 million and, on average, players spend £120 per month playing online bingo games.
Why has online bingo seen such a huge rise? This is mainly down to convenience. It is incredibly simple and easy to use, plus there is a huge variety of games available that aren’t in your traditional bingo halls. This keeps the game interesting and exciting! Players also love that online bingo is available straight from the mobile device, so you can fit in games of bingo around your busy schedule and enjoy them anytime, anywhere, rather than at designated time slots in a bingo hall.
As you can see, the evolution of the bingo hall has been dramatic in the past century but no matter how technology and preferences change, the game always manages to adapt to suit the current landscape and we can’t imagine that it will be going anywhere soon.