Not so long ago, the UK bingo industry was described as a dying trade. With the Gambling Commission recently noted that there are now fewer than 650 traditional bingo halls operating in the UK, the land-based sector is in dire need of a systematic overhaul.
However, while it is true that the conventional format of the game is declining at a rapid pace, the online segment is experiencing exponential growth. In fact, this particular sector of the online casino space is now the fastest-growing segment of the UK gambling industry.
With that being said, we sought to explore how the age-old game has made such a sudden turnaround.
Gone, but not forgotten
Although the early roots of the game date back hundreds of years, it wasn’t until the 1960s that bingo was legalised as a fully regulated gambling product in the UK market.
On the back of the original Gambling Act – the UK’s primary gambling legislation at the time, bingo became an instant hit with British players of all demographics. In fact, it is estimated that just three years after bingo was regulated under the Gambling Act, more than 14 million players were registered across hundreds of land-based bingo halls.
One of the overarching attractions to playing the game at a traditional hall was the social element that the game provided. Players could attend games with groups of friends and family, enjoy a round of refreshments, and ultimately – attempt to win as many games as possible in a highly competitive, but fun environment.
However, experts within the industry argue that the decline in attendance numbers initially started in 2007 – in response to the Labour Government’s decision to ban smoking within public premises. This effectively had the undesired result of reducing player turnout numbers, insofar that seasoned smokers could no longer smoke while playing their favourite game.
Since then, the industry has matured quite considerably, subsequently making the all-important transition over to the digital space.
Online Bingo: What’s the big Attraction
With the Gambling Commission recently stating that the online bingo space is now contributing £5 billion to the UK gambling industry annually, it appears that operators have completely reinvigorated the game. Arguably, online casinos have alleviated some, if not all of the roadblocks that have historically hindered the long-term prospects of land-based bingo halls.
For example, it will come as no surprise to learn that traditional bingo halls get the vast majority of their players over the weekend. Sure, bingo halls might experience a reasonable turnaround during mid-week evening jackpot games, but in comparison to Friday and Saturday, this is minute.
This means that those looking to play a game or two during the week are left with the prospect of low prize pots, subsequently not making it a worthwhile exercise attending their local bingo hall.
On the contrary, online bingo websites are able to conformably generate medium-to-large prize pots on almost a 24/7 basis. Not only is this because casinos will commonly link their bingo rooms with other platforms, but online bingo websites also attract players from overseas. This ensures that seasoned players can always get a game, and play for a prize that is worth their time.
Other factors, such as an ever-growing increase in alcoholic beverage prices, and the ongoing public smoking ban, have further amplified the inevitable online transformation of land-based bingo halls. As such, the online version of the game is not only booming, but it is now the fastest-growing segment of the UK gambling industry.