UNITED STATES—When bingo first arrived on US shores, in the late 1920s, it went by the name of “beano”. Back then, it wasn’t a game people played in designated bingo halls; it was one they played at country fairs.
A dealer would pull discs from a box, and the players would mark their card with beans. A toy salesman from New York changed the name to “bingo” when he heard someone yell the word instead of “beano” while playing at a carnival.
It was across the water in the UK that bingo really took off, however. The game had grown popular among British troops during wartime. When they returned home, bingo rose in popularity even more.
In response to this popularity, the British government introduced the Betting and Gaming Act in 1960, which paved the way for bingo halls and betting shops to open. The public loved it, and, as well as becoming a way to earn a little money if you were lucky, bingo took on a social dimension, allowing people to bond over a game or two.
Bingo traditions and the arrival of the Internet
Bingo fever somehow has swept around the world. Churches here in the US began to use it to raise funds. The game is also popular in nursing facilities and retirement homes.
Meanwhile, the British had their own bingo halls, and the game became akin to the domain of the older generations, although in more recent years, the younger generations have taken to it. Even today, though, you’ll still find pensioners at the halls, sometimes stepping out for a smoke between games.
Fast forward to the mid-to-late 1990s, and a little thing called the internet had emerged, which would be a game changer. Although online bingo still wasn’t a thing just yet, entrepreneurs were looking at how they could use the Internet to provide gambling services.
Except for a savvy few, most of them missed the opportunities cyberspace held for bingo. Those that were wise to them started to pour money into the venture, and a few years later online bingo emerged.
Fresh and happening
The materialization of the internet saw bingo move more and more into the online space, and many people opted to play bingo games online rather than visiting a bingo hall. Online bingo made the game more accessible to a new audience that would embrace digital technology. Cyberspace became a double-edged sword for the game.
Since it’s heyday in the 1960s, the popularity of bingo had dwindled. The game had become stale in the minds of people and hadn’t changed in all the time it had been on the gambling scene. New forms of gambling were also starting to move in on bingo’s territory.
The internet helped revive bingo’s popularity… but only to an extent. The new-found popularity the game witnessed when it took to the internet started to come at the expense of traditional bingo halls, which started to see their attendance fall as players turned to tech and the availability of the game at their fingertips around the clock.
Bingo halls in the UK were also grappling with the effects that high taxation was having on them and the threat it was posing to their existence.
Young bingo guns
Without doubt, the transition of bingo to the online sphere has created a whole new fanbase for the game. According to past research conducted in the UK, the 25-to-34-year-olds demographic is a big driver of the popularity of online bingo.
Interestingly, people in this demographic and who took part in the research were still visiting traditional bingo halls, despite also dabbling in online bingo. Contemporary variations of bingo, including rave bingo, may be behind the appeal of the game to a younger audience, who want somewhere not just to play bingo, but also to socialize.
It’s not just the accessibility which has drawn younger people to the online game, however. Online operators can save on some of the costs that a traditional bingo hall encounters, such as bingo callers or catering staff, and offer higher jackpots.
Branding is another big winner for online bingo. Bingo operators have been able to home in on their target market with branding that conveys a stronger sense of fun. Whereas casinos benefit from a serious branding and target a male audience, online bingo has appealed to a female audience and adapted its colors and style to attract ladies more than men.
Where would bingo be without the Internet?
Would bingo have declined without the Internet?
This is a big question, and the jury is still out on the answer. The failure to change in such a long time had started to see players find other ways of getting their gambling spills and thrills. That much is clear.
Then the Net arrived and introduced the game to a whole new legion of fans, triggering an urge in them to frequent bingo halls and venues that offered different variations of bingo. The social aspect — the fact they can enjoy a burger and maybe a beer with friends as well as a game or two — is something that appeals to them as much as it did to the older generations in the heyday of bingo. That’s one thing maybe no one would want to see change about the game.