A brief history
Once upon a time there was a bingo hall in every town and village, it was a focal point for church and community groups, a means of fundraising, and for (primarily) women to socialise. Going to the bingo is seen as a night out, an opportunity for fun, with drinks flowing and making new friends. At the height of bingo fever in the 1960s, there were 14 million registered bingo players, and 150 thousand visiting bingo halls every day; more people played bingo weekly thank watched football! However, by the late 1990s, bingo was on its last legs, with under 10% of its 1960s presence.
Between October 2018 and September 2019 bingo generated over £1 billion in the UK, big business for UK operators and indicative of the popularity of bingo. However, this is a huge drop from just a decade previously, where in 2009/2010 revenue from bingo stood at £1.34 billion. Mirrored in this is the decline in the number of bingo halls across the country. In 2014 there were over 700 bingo halls, whereas in 2018 this number had dropped to under 650. The levels of employment in the industry have also dropped steadily, from just under 17 thousand in 2010 to just over 12 thousand in 2018.
However, there is light at the end of the tunnel. Operators have used the developments in technology, changes in player habits, and the move from land based bingo halls to online sites and apps to reinvigorate their offerings, and attract new players. The best bingo sites on offer provide a number of different options for players, including prizes, welcome bonuses and rewards. There is hope that bingo will re-establish itself as a popular gambling game once more.
Why did the popularity of bingo wane?
The more popular bingo halls in the 1960s were based in seaside towns, popular as a summer holiday destination. As cheaper flights became the norm, foreign travel was no longer reserved to the upper classes, and pretty much anyone who could have gone to the seaside and played bingo was now able to jet off abroad. This shift in lifestyle hit the seaside towns hard, as well as the bingo halls.
When the smoking ban came in in 2007, over 63% of players were smokers, and the ban really hit the bingo halls hard as players were no longer able to smoke whilst playing, and many decided to stop going. A number of high-profile operators were forced to shut down due to this.
The smoking ban is said to be one of the main contributing factors to the decline of bingo halls.
When bingo was popular back in the 1960s, there was not a huge amount of competition, not just from other forms of gambling (many of which were seen as harmful, or dangerous at the time) but from leisure activities in general. There was no 24-hour TV and hundreds of channels, the cinema was an infrequent family day out, and there was no such thing as a computer game.
As much as a hobby, the bingo hall was a way of socialising and seeing other people.
As technology developed in the 1990s/2000s, more people had TVs in their rooms, there was more variety of programming, console gaming and PC gaming was growing in popularity and other forms of entertainment were becoming more accessible. The new forms of entertainment were new and exciting; bongo on the other hand had barely changed in 40 years.
Seen as a game for ‘older people’
Without the changes in the previous 40 years, the average age of players had increased as there were no new players being attracted, hence the association of bingo being an old person’s game.
What have operators done to reinvigorate the market?
In the early days of the internet boom, operators invested heavily in online gambling, almost to the point of market saturation. Some savvy operators noticed that bingo had been neglected and began to invest in moving the game online. They were able to mirror the success of the online gambling sites, and bingo is steadily becoming more popular, with many casinos sites offering bingo, or having a sister bingo site.
Tapping into changing player habits
Over the last fifteen years or so, player habits have changed significantly, especially with the advent of the smart phone. Being able to play bingo anywhere, anytime, is a huge draw for many, in particular the younger generation, and statistics show that increasingly younger players are being drawn to the game, with over half of all players aged under 44.
Smartphones have allowed online bingo to be an all-time accessible and convenient game for players.
Bonuses and Promotions
To attract new players to their site, many bingo providers offer a range of signing up bonuses and promotions for the player to use when playing bingo on the site. To reward players who return to site for their loyalty, providers also offer the chance to earn bonuses and promotions throughout gameplay. This technique has proved successful and has helped a lot of bingo sites attract and acquire new players.
With the advancements in technology allowing bingo sites to offer their players a variety of games as well as promotions, it is likely that the craze of online bingo will never come to and end, in fact as new technology is released we are likely to see this market potentially grow!