Britons and Bingo-A Long Term Love Affair

Great Britain has had a long love affair with bingo. During the Great War (1914-18) bingo was the only gambling game allowed by the armed services. During the post WW 2 years bingo was played at holiday camps that sprang up all over the country during the postwar years. In the 60’s bingo the passage of the Gaming Act in 1960 set the stage for a bingo boom in the UK. Two major land based bingo operators quickly emerged; Mecca and Gala. According to the Gaming Act bingo was legal in licensed clubs with a member’s only policy. Eric Morley of Mecca realized the huge potential of bingo after a visit to the United States. Morley was already skilled at bringing in entertainment to Britain and was already famous for starting the Miss World beauty competition,

Morley saw bingo as a way to repurpose unused ballrooms and started several large bingo halls in cities throughout the UK. The ballrooms were losing favor with the public after the introduction of television and could be purchased cheaply. The former glories of the dancehalls allowed Morley and Mecca to provide bingo players with an upscale bingo experience. The new bingo halls were considerably better than the ones Morley had visited in the United States. At that time most American bingo games took place in churches and veteran’s organizations. Morley brought more excitement to the game by using the now familiar glass cabinets fitted with fans blowing numbered ping pong balls as the game’s random number generator. In the US bingo numbers were still plucked from a plain bag.

The low costs and the glamour of the new bingo games made them a huge hit with working class Briton and the industry experienced incredible growth in the 60’s and 70’s. Soon there were High Street bingo halls in just about every city, town and rural hamlet taking over old cinemas and dance halls and bringing new life to many communities. In the 80’s bingo experienced a set back after the introduction of multiplex theatres and discos.

Bingo halls bounced back in the 90’s after several operators invested in modernization of their halls. The bingo industry in the UK suffered its most serious setback after the imposition of a national smoking ban. To survive several operators launched online bingo sites which immediately achieved popularity with young players. The online bingo sector has created a new generation of bingo players ensuring the game’s survival well into the future and who knows what new technologies will bring to the game?

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