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London is still the home of Bingo

Published: 12th September 2019 10:02

The UK bingo industry


The UK bingo industry


Bingo premises were once thriving, well-loved entertainment destinations across the UK, with many of the biggest and best bingo halls being based in the country’s great capital city.

Many Brits once enjoyed gathering at the bingo in the evening with friends to have fun and win cash prizes.


The trend began in the 1960’s, after changes to gambling legislation allowed venues to operate legally. However, as the options for weekend and evening entertainment grew, the number of bingo hall visitors began to decline.


The introduction of online bingo in the 1990’s and the more recent rise in people staying in rather than going on nights out has also impacted visitor numbers.


While the game is still hugely popular, much of this industry’s revenue now comes from online games rather than land based venues. The online gambling sector has a market share of 39% and is growing year on year.


There are now roughly 650 licenced bingo premises in the UK, which is a small 1.1% decline from last year. However, many premises are adapting as they gain a better understanding of the types of entertainment that customers want and as a result we have seen a number of new and diverse themed bingo venues popping up, particularly in London.


What London has on offer


Drum and Bass DJs, drag acts and hipster style bars with craft ales...


These are perhaps not what we would associate with a bingo venue, but in trendy London districts like Shoreditch and Camden, business owners are doing away with tradition and creating spaces that attract new, younger players looking for something different on an evening out.


One such venue is Dabbers, based in the heart of Shoreditch this contemporary bingo hall hosts an exciting lineup of comedians, musicians and other live performers. Players can enjoy food at their table and toast their win with a custom made cocktail.


Think raves and bingo halls don’t mix? Think again. Event night organisers are also bringing the game to new audiences, with Bingo Lingo being perhaps one of the most surprising.


Hosted at popular rave warehouses and venues, the night is a unique experience and features everything from dance offs and twerking to live DJ performances, with a whole host of weird and wonderful (and some terrible) prizes.


The London event is hosted at Boxpark Wembley and often sell outs in advance.


Online competition


 Aside from event organisers, gambling websites are also taking advantage of the games popularity and upping their online bingo offering.


These websites provide great incentives for new players, with free bonuses and no deposit options being widely available. From progressive jackpot games for those looking to win big, to bingo roulettes for casino lovers, they have a plethora of themes and game types for players to try out.


While many of London’s new bingo venues are embedded into the city’s night time economy, online bingo can be played at any time of day and in any location. This is a big part of its appeal.


Whether it be from the comfort of their own home or on the commute to work, with a mobile or tablet in their hand, bingo fans have immediate access to the game they love. Young Londoners introduced to the game on an evening out can now continue playing from their smartphone. Swapping the excitement and buzz of the bingo venue, for a bingo site’s digital games and online chat features.


But what has become of London’s traditional bingo venues?


The close of Hackney’s Mecca bingo hit local headlines in 2015. Once of the city’s busiest bingo venues, it was transformed from a purpose built cinema into a bingo hall back in 1961. Some of their most loyal customers had been visiting since its opening and had spent much of their free time socialising with friends and locals.


Customers expressed their deep sadness at the news of its closure, as the venue gave them the opportunity to get out of the house and prevented loneliness and isolation for many, particularly for older players. This suggests that the game has become much more than just a chance to win money and prizes. It has provided a sense of community spirit that cannot be replicated online.


A victim to the area’s gentrification, the art deco themed building was sold on to property developers and a battle to turn the plot into luxury apartments and office spaces followed suit.


Similarly, in Clapham a cinema-turned-Gala bingo hall was closed down after being in operation since the early 1980’s. As demand fell and housing needs became a priority, the building was listed to be redeveloped into flats.


Also in Clapham, a Majestic Theatre re-emerged as a grandly designed bingo hall following the building’s damage in World War 2. The venue was later turned in The Goat, a trendy pub and restaurant serving classic British dishes and ales.


What’s next for London’s bingo venues?


There are many challenges facing London’s bingo venues, from gentrification and property development forcing out traditional halls, to the increase in entertainment choices and rise of online bingo websites all impacting on visitor numbers.


However with trendy new premises providing different experiences, themes and entertainment options popping up around the city, it seems that London venues are bringing bingo into the 21st century.


This niche market has established itself well within East London locations. The question is whether hipster style bingo is a trend that will last and continue to grow.

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