When you picture the typical bingo hall what do you imagine? Row upon row of formica topped tables occupied by ladies of a certain age hunched over their bingo cards, loudly “shushing” anyone who dares to talk while the caller’s going about his business?
Well this may have been the bingo of yesteryear but it’s a very different picture today. |But, before we get into today’s bingo scene, let’s take a look at where it came from.
The game was “discovered” in the 1930s by a travelling salesman called Edwin S. Lowe who, on his visits to State fairs, came across a game called Beano. It was called this because players put a bean on their cards when a number was called out. When their card was filled they then announced they’d won by calling out “Beano”. Lowe saw the huge potential of the game and got together with a university maths professor to create cards with many more number permutations than the original game used. Then, thanks to great marketing, the game spread like wildfire, being re-named “bingo” along the way.
In the post war 1950s the game really started to take off in the UK with many bingo halls being set up in old cinemas whose audience numbers had dropped dramatically thanks to the advent of television. Through the next few decades the game became hugely popular but in the 1980s attendances began to drop off as more compelling entertainment opportunities started to present themselves.
But it turned out that the game wasn’t dead, it had only gone into hibernation, waiting for its time to come again.
Bingo goes online
Like many other things, this came with the arrival of the internet and the establishment of the first online bingo sites. Often these also featured that other big favourite for online players, slots, and the simplicity of bingo and the way it seamlessly fitted in to being played online made it very popular very quickly.
The ever-inventive online operators also saw the opportunity to offer all different kinds of games for all different kinds of players. These meant that games were available that could be played for pence and others for pounds and some were quick to play while others took a little longer.
Many other elements of the online experience also worked in the sites’ favour, not least the exciting colours and animations that were becoming possible as the technology behind website design became more and more sophisticated.
So before very long a huge number of bingo sites started to appear, aimed at a younger demographic than the traditional bingo hall experience – and they proved to be very successful at attracting them. Proof of this comes from a recent You Gov survey that found that the majority of online players fall into the 25-34 year old age group. Even more surprisingly, the survey found that 35% of players were men. To go back to the traditional bingo halls, the only male presence in many of these was likely to have been the bingo caller.
Unsurprisingly, these whole new groups of younger players suddenly appearing has meant that many hundreds of online bingo sites have sprung up, each one competing for players. This level of competition is undoubtedly a good thing for players as the sites offer ever-more attractive bonuses for joining up so players can afford to pick and choose which ones to join.
Finding the best offers and bonuses
To help them make the decision a whole new kind of site has appeared. Called affiliate sites, these contain a wealth of information about the latest offers available as well as reviews of the sites themselves – and then gives a link to introduce the players to the bingo site of their choice. Some, like the BingoPort website even give reward points for searching on them, as well as extra points when players go on to use one of their recommended sites. These rewards can then be exchanged for everything from shopping vouchers to making deposits on the bingo sites.
As well as using affiliate sites to attract new players, online bingo sites also invest many millions of pounds each year in other kinds of marketing. These range from big, glitzy TV ads which really get across the excitement of playing to sponsorships of the sorts of TV programmes that their target market like to watch.
The social aspect of bingo
But it’s all very well attracting new players with the promise of great time. The real question is how to keep hold of them and today’s bingo sites seem to have that covered too. One of the most important features of the old bingo halls was the sociable aspect of the games. It gave players the chance to meet up with friends in a fun environment where they could enjoy a chat, have a drink or two and, with any luck, go home with more money than they’d come out with.
So today’s leading sites also put a lot of effort in building up communities of players to make them feel like they “belong” on the particular site. They achieve this by providing chat rooms where players can message each other on any subject they want, not necessarily, bingo-related. The very fact that the younger generation who are the lifeblood of online bingo sites are so used to communicating via social media means that this is a very popular feature indeed.
Ironically, the exponential growth of the online game has also had a knock-on effect on the traditional version. All round the country there are reports of increasing player numbers with younger people playing than ever before. It’s also becoming a big favourite in nightclubs and student unions where the game is being re-invented to include wacky prizes, confetti cannons celebrating wins and much more besides.
So it’s fair to say that in 2019 the age-old game of bingo is in very good health – and all the signs are that it will continue to be for many years to come.