The Amazing History of UK Bingo
Bingo enjoys widespread popularity around the world but nowhere else does is the game of bingo as popular as in the UK. Bingo became popular in the UK during the post war years when Britons sought out inexpensive entertainment. The nation had experienced widespread destruction during the war which left the nation’s economy in shambles. The UK experienced a postwar recession and much of the country’s wealth had had been appropriated for wartime expenses. War weary Britons looked for any form of entertainment they could afford. Many sources say that the Catholic Church was, in part, responsible for introducing bingo to the UK. The game was also popular in veteran’s and workingman’s clubs.
Before the Betting and Gaming Act of 1960 facilitated the development of commercial bingo on a wide scale the Betting and Lotteries Act of 1934 and the Small Lotteries and Gaming Act of 1956 allowed bingo games for charitable purposes. The popularity of ‘Holiday Camps’ contributed to the development of commercial bingo in Britain. The idea behind the camps was to provide affordable vacations for workingmen and women. Part of the organized activities in the holiday camps included bingo or ‘Housie housie’ as it was called. After 1960 it became possible to play bingo as a member of a ‘club.’ When the first bingo clubs opened there were long waiting lists for membership and long queues of players waiting to get in were a common sight.
The growth of bingo was part of a larger movement in the UK to legalize gambling which led to the development of bingo clubs all over the country. Mecca and the Rank Group were the first to take advantage of bingo’s popularity and develop and market bingo brands. These clubs were widely referred to as ‘bingo casinos’ and although they were forbidden to advertise they were able to gamin considerable publicity in the popular and local press. Celebrity bingo callers were introduced in the 60’s and the tradition continues to this day. The celebrity callers allowed bingo casinos to garner more free publicity. The 1960’s have been referred as the ‘golden age of bingo’ in the UK. During the following decades bingo became one of the most popular gambling games in the UK.
Online bingo was introduced in the late 1990’s and got off to a pretty slow start due to limitations of the technology of the time. Online bingo games were considered boring and unexciting and most players in the UK preferred land based bingo clubs. Rapid software advances made the online games much more entertaining and the online bingo industry was perfectly positioned for the rapid influx of new players prompted by the ill advised national smoking ban.
Bingo is still immensely popular in the UK and while the land based bingo industry is relatively static the online bingo industry is now a billion dollar a year business. Thanks to clever and original marketing campaigns bingo will continue to be the second most popular gambling game in the UK.
By Anthony Wayne
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