Mecca Bets on Electronic Bingo

A majority of gamblers in the UK were introduced to the activity in one of three ways; they played fruit machines in pubs and cafes, their father allowed them to make a wager on the Grand Nationals or they played bingo at one of the many bingo halls located at the seashore. Bingo has always been immensely popular in the UK. Players can walk into just about any constitutional or labor club on a weekend night and there will be someone using clo0lrful ‘bingolingo’ to call the numbers and the crowd usually responds with wolf whistles. Most likely most of the players will be women between the ages of 30 & 100. For men bingo is not macho enough and for the young it isn’t ‘cool’ to play bingo.

Recent figures show that bingo owns 17% of the gambling market in the U.K. Online bingo has the lion’s share of players and during the past five years online bingo player numbers have jumped 155%! So who is staying at home and playing internet bingo? Ian Burke, the Rank Group Chairman and CEO, the owners and operators of Mecca Bingo believes that younger players are a majority of online bingo players. Burke would like to see these same players venture out for a night at one of the company’s Mecca Bingo halls. Mecca saw revenues dip 1% to £115.7 million during the six months leading up to December 31st.

Mecca’s online bingo operations had an 11% increase to £30.4. Burke isn’t just sitting around hoping these young players will venture out to Mecca’s bingo halls. In Reading Mecca has plans to create the first electronic bingo hall. Players at the Reading will use ipad like devices to play instead of the usual paper bingo tickets and daubers. The idea of combining a live venue with an online venue was the creation of the national Stadiums Poker Tour. (ISTP) Unfortunately the first hybrid event turned into one of the worst poker disasters in history. The idea was dropped because the organizers of the even realized that they couldn’t secure an internet network for such a large number of players.

CEO Burke told reporters from the Telegraph “Electronic gaming offers all sorts of additional benefits to players. I wouldn’t describe our handheld devices as an iPad, but it’s the same principle. Like many people, three years ago I would never have imagined iPads being as popular or as successful as they are. A lot of people love the tactile aspect of playing bingo with paper and pen and I imagine that will be around for a long, long time to come. But playing bingo electronically is much more akin to playing it on the Internet except it’s done in a social and community setting.” Electronic bingo has been tried in Canada with mixed results. Recent news reports indicate that electronic bingo has not been as successful as hoped for Mecca.