Under the spotlight: the evolution of bingo

Bingo is something of a national treasure in the UK. Bingo halls are monuments in city centres, pillars of community as well as purveyors of a simple yet exceedingly fun game of chance. Its cultural impact on the UK is undeniable – but how did we get here?

The history of bingo

Bingo came a long way before its installation in high streets and village halls across the UK. Its origination can be traced all the way back to Italy in the 1500s, and the early iterations of the Italian national lottery. In around 1530, the game ‘Il Gioco del Lotto d’Italia’ was invented, and quickly became a popular national pastime. It endured for long enough that the French caught wind, and by the late 18th century ‘Le Lotto’ was being played by members of high society.

‘Le Lotto’ resembles the modern iteration of bingo with which we’re familiar, whereby numbers between 1 and 90 are randomly entered into a 3×9 grid. This game would spread across Europe, and eventually over into America, where game attained a life of its own – and the name ‘Bingo’. In the 40s, this Americanised version of the game came to the UK, where it flourished as a community game. Its popularity would soon explode, though, with the introduction of the Betting and Gaming Act 1960 – which enabled the winning of cash prizes and the legal launch of bingo halls in every city.

The decline of bingo halls

After nearly fifty years of runaway success, the bino hall model began to show signs of failure. Younger demographics were less interested in the game, and visitor numbers for halls across the country began to decline. Something of a death knell was sounded for the humble bingo hall with the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, which rendered the upkeep of halls during lockdown restrictions unsustainable. Major bingo providers were forced to shutter their doors as a result.

Online bingo, and revival

But something of a bingo renaissance was underway elsewhere – more specifically, in the digital realm. A variety of online bingo games were developed to cater to a younger audience, offering more flexibility in play than any bingo hall ever could. Players could play from their bed, from their sofa, or even on their way to and from work. With the barriers to entry lifted for some, interest in the game once again began to grow. 

Today, millions take part in bingo games around the world, with modern communication technology retaining the social element by allowing players to chat to one another. The industry is booming, and, somewhat ironically, has begun to re-ignite interest in the game as played traditionally. Younger players who have especially taken to the game are turning out at bingo halls, saving some from assured closure and preserving the game for generations to come.