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A Whistlestop History of Bingo in the UK

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Bingo is one of the best games. If you've not been to a lively bingo before or even a disco bingo, you're missing out. Yes, it does have a stigma for being for little old ladies, but it all depends on the bingo game and hall. And anyway, most of these little old ladies have more fun and life than us!

The UK loves bingo, so keep reading for your whistlestop overview of the history of bingo in the UK.

Early days: the Italian roots of Bingo

Bingo's story starts far from the UK and can be traced back to Italy in the 16th century. How classy it must have been there! It was known as Il Gioco del Lotto d'Italia, a form of lottery played across Europe. In France, by the 18th century, it had begun being played by the aristocracy with the name Le Lotto.

It wasn't until the beginning of the 20th century that bingo, the game loved by so many, made its way to the UK and became popular. What did those little old ladies do before then?! Fairs and carnivals began featuring the game as part of charity or community fundraising activities during the early 1920s. The British public quickly fell in love with this simple and thrilling experience of simply waiting for numbers to be called.

Bingo boom

The true popularity of bingo in the UK came after the Second World War. The post-war period saw people engage in many social activities to relax or have fun. Bingo halls were established nationwide as centres where people could meet socially and relax.

In 1960, commercial bingo halls were made legal with the Betting and Gaming Act, and the rest is history - there was a massive increase in the number of bingo venues and gamers. By the mid-1960s, over fourteen million people were playing bingo weekly every night.

Modernisation and challenges

The face of British bingo changed significantly in the late 20th century. Traditional bingo halls decreased thanks to increasing operational costs and competition from other forms of entertainment like casinos and the growing video game industry, especially during the 1980s and 1990s.

The introduction of electronic bingo machines in the 1980s helped to modernise the game and attract the younger generation. It ensured there was an increase in the speed of play and jackpots, leading to more intense excitement about playing.

Digital revolution

The digital revolution really changed bingo. The game was revolutionised by the first online bingo websites launched in the early 2000s, which made it global. People no longer needed to actually get off the sofa and go to bingo. Instead, they could play their favourite games from the comfort of their homes.

Online bingo platforms have various game formats, like traditional 90-ball, 75-ball, and 80-ball versions. These sites also introduced chat features, creating virtual communities where players could interact, share tips, and enjoy the social aspect of the game.

And, online bingo brought the convenience of playing anytime, anywhere, on different devices.

Today's Bingo

Bingo today is a colourful mixture of tradition and innovation. Traditional bingo halls have seen a resurgence in popularity, while online bingo continues to thrive. For example, many venues have adopted contemporary technology, making them offer electronic games like e-bingo and social media to attract new players.

These days, the game has become more than just a way of making money. It has turned from gambling into an entertainment industry with themes like celebrity nights, disco bingos, and more immersive worlds.

You'd probably be lying if you didn't like a bit of bingo. It's interesting how bingo survived through the post-war boom period, accommodated modernisation challenges, and finally yielded to the digital revolution.

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