How bingo became a British cultural mainstay


26th Aug 2019 Life

How bingo became a British cultural mainstay

Bingo is still one of the most popular games played in Great Britain. Check out our comprehensive guide to how it became a British cultural mainstay.

With a rich history dating back to the 16th century, bingo remains one of the most popular games in Great Britain.

It originates to an Italian lottery called ‘Lo Giuoco del Lotto D'Italia’, which is still played every weekend in Italy.

Bingo subsequently spread into France where it was known as Le Lotto, before finding its way to Britain and other parts of Europe during the 18th century.

It crossed over into popular culture during the 1920s and has now become a world-renowned game. The bingo history on online-casinos.com traces this trajectory, from a mispronunciation at a fair in Atlanta to becoming an internet mainstay with the advent of online bingo games.

Having once been confined solely to the working classes, bingo is now a game that appeals to all types of people and its popularity is showing no signs of slowing down.

Read on as we take a look at how bingo became a British cultural mainstay.

The background to bingo in Britain

Having made its way to these shores during the 1700s, it wasn’t until the 20th century that bingo truly exploded in Britain.

Bingo first took off in the United States in the 1920s after an early version of the game was spotted at a carnival by New York car salesman, Edwin Lowe.

He took the game home to his friends and made a few changes to create ‘beano’ – the forerunner for the version played by millions of people today.

The game involved shouting ‘beano’ after completing a card of numbers, but was eventually changed when one of Lowe’s friends mistakenly called out ‘bingo’ when he won a game.

The moniker stuck and the game soon spread across North America and into Britain. A decline in the popularity of cinemas during the 1950s saw many venues change into bingo halls as the game grew massively across the country.

Establishing a cultural phenomenon

Big changes to the British gambling laws in the early 1960s sparked an explosion in the popularity of bingo all over the land.

Cinemas and theatres that had suffered a big decline in turnover due to the growth of television were suddenly revamped into bingo halls.

The game became a staple part of British culture throughout the decade and continued apace into the 1970s. Bingo was particularly popular amongst working class people, as it became their go-to entertainment activity to undertake on a weekly basis.

In addition to bingo halls, the game transferred easily into other venues such as holiday camps, working men’s clubs and church halls as they attempted to cash in on its popularity.

At its peak, there were around 2,000 bingo halls in Britain alone, with over 470,000 people attending across the country on a daily basis.

Big brands make their mark

Bingo remained popular during the early part of the next decade, although the number of venues had dropped by around 20 percent midway through the 1980s.

Some of this was attributed to larger chain venues opening their doors, putting many of the smaller halls out of business.

The game remained an important part of people’s social life over the next few years as the bigger clubs offered ever-increasing jackpots both locally and nationally.

However, the introduction of online bingo during the late 1990s was the ultimately the catalyst for a seismic shift in the way people played the game.

This caused a big decline in the number of people who attended bingo halls and the impact lasted well into the new century.

Online growth sparking bingo boom

Bingo halls struggled to retain their customer base during the early part of the new millennium as the growth of the internet and high taxation from the government eroded their profits.

By 2014, the number of bingo halls in Britain had reduced by around 75 percent during a 30-year period, but a cut in the tax on bingo hall profits by the Chancellor from 20 percent to 10 percent helped to spark a resurgence.

However, the ability to be able to play bingo on desktop and mobile devices also gave the industry a big boost as a whole new generation of players switched onto the game.

Different types of venues incorporating bingo with other entertainment genres have attracted an entirely new demographic and that has had a knock-on effect across the board.

With the global online bingo games market predicted to reach $1.9 billion by 2022 and new venues opening their doors across the country, the game looks set to be a British cultural mainstay for many years to come.

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