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May
24th

UK Bingo Halls Survive Troubled Economic Times

In the UK bingo has come a long way since the postwar years when bingo became popular at the many ‘holiday camps’ scattered throughout the country. In the 1960’s the first massive bingo halls were opened and many older players remember the smoke filled halls filled with hundreds of avid players. Many bingo halls were local landmarks and served as a social center for many communities. The game of bingo became an ingrained part of British culture and most social clubs offered an hour or two of bingo games every night. Bingo became a big business dominated by names like Rank, Mecca and Gala. The network of halls generated millions every year for operators and bingo became the most popular form of gambling for women.

Many people still think of bingo halls as smoky places dominated by pensioners but today nothing could be further from the truth. Bingo halls took a severe hit in 2007 after the national smoking ban was imposed. Bingo halls tried every strategy possible to keep players coming back but nothing seemed to work. Many bingo halls tried to accommodate smokers as best they could and added heated outdoor smoking areas. One enterprising company offered ‘bingo cruises’ that provided smokers with bingo games outside British territorial waters. Many industry observers say that prior to the smoking ban many bingo halls became stagnant and shabby.

The combination of the smoking ban and the global recession prompted bingo operators to try new strategies and marketing methods. While bingo halls saw a decline in the number of players at games the internet bingo industry experienced an 80% increase in the number of online players. To remain profitable and to survive many major bingo operators launched new bingo sites. Many bingo operators closed underperforming halls and revamped surviving halls. The investments seem to be paying off and many land based operators report an increase in business. Many bingo halls launched new games designed to attract younger players and added DJ’s and increased customer services.

Recently Rank Group announced plans to invest millions in its land based bingo operations. Many younger players first learned the online bingo games and decided to give live bingo games a try. Today younger players dominate most games at local bingo halls. Bingo is no longer considered a game for the aged and once again the future looks bright for land based bingo in the UK.