Now that gambling online is an activity that is gaining in popularity at a rapid pace, this has had some wider consequences for the gambling industry as a whole – such as the threat it is posing to the existence of land-based casinos and traditional bingo halls. The new, emerging generation of bingo enthusiasts tend to view these venues somewhat skeptically, seeing them as old-fashioned compared with the fast-moving online bingo sites. This means the bingo hall faces a real fight to stay alive in the marketplace and this article will look at what its chances are.
Bingo is a game that has been enormously popular in the UK for decades, and has consistently proven to be one of the favoured types of gambling among women. It was during the 1960s that gambling at bingo was legalised and during this decade membership of UK bingo clubs hit 14 million. This popularity continued to rise throughout the next couple of decades and by the 1980s there were 1600 bricks and mortar bingo halls in the UK. Arguably the key moment when things began to shift was the launch of the National Lottery during 1994, as this was the first point at which traditional bingo halls began to close. It was also during the latter part of this decade that the first internet bingo and casino sites began to emerge, although 2005’s Gambling Deregulation Bill – was when clear guidelines for these sites were put in place. The decline of the traditional bingo hall was further fuelled a year later, when the smoking ban came into effect, as around 50 percent of regular players were estimated to be smokers.
This meant that people now had a choice of visiting bricks and mortar halls to play or opting for online bingo, and both had advantages and disadvantages. After all, the real-life bingo halls offer a feeling of building excitement as each round reaches a climax that it is not really possible for even the most sophisticated online site to replicate. The sounds and sense of on-the-spot camaraderie are unique to the bingo hall, as is the thrill of actually receiving your winnings on the spot and hearing the cries of ‘bingo’, ‘line’ or ‘house’ from fellow players. On the other hand, it is precisely that fast pace that can make the bingo hall tough for inexperienced players; after all, should you miss a number by mistake, there is no going back. By contrast online bingo generally provides auto daub technology to ensure this does not happen. There is also the very relevant point that playing bingo online means that you don’t have to worry about going out on a cold and wet winter’s night – which is unquestionably a big part of its appeal to players in the UK. Furthermore, most of these sites enable you to play alongside friends, just as you would at a bingo hall, while letting you smoke. Although 2016 has notably seen a new bingo hall launch in Britain for the first time since 2009 – indicating that there is still a market for this way of playing – it is hard to see anything other than a long-term trend towards playing online eclipsing it.
For the moment, online bingo is clearly the growth area of this industry, but there is still life left in the traditional bingo hall.