In the 1960s bingo was one of the most popular past times in the UK, enjoyed by an estimated 16 million players up and down the length of the country. Over the decades though, the popularity of the game began to wane.
Until, in the mid-noughties, it appeared as though the game was on the verge of being consigned to the history books. The smoking ban, along with a number of other societal and economic factors had left bingo staring down the barrel of a gun.
Thankfully for lovers of the game, a reprieve came in the shape of the online sector. Now, almost 20 years on from bingo’s darkest days, millions of bingo fans head to sites like www.winkbingo.com to get their fill of all the latest bingo fun.
In this article we chart the rise of the UK online bingo industry, looking at the reasons why the online sector managed to revive bingo so spectacularly.
Bingo’s Biggest Problem
Speak to anyone about the demise of the British bingo hall and the words ‘smoking’ and ‘ban’ will quickly come up in conversation. To those within the industry the decision taken by the government to ban smoking indoors in public areas in July, 2007 was the single biggest reason for the demise of land-based bingo halls.
Whilst it’s true that this decision by the government did have huge ramifications for the bingo industry, to blame it entirely is to miss the point altogether. In 2007 around 21% of the adult population in the UK smoked, so why did something that only effected 1 in 5 people damage bingo so badly?
It’s because bingo had a diversity problem. It marketed itself almost exclusively to working class people over the age of 50 – those most likely to smoke. The Smoking Ban of 2007 wouldn’t have been so disastrous to bingo then, if it had branched out and appealed to players of all backgrounds.
Online Bingo – The Rebranding
The earliest pioneers of online bingo recognised that the game was built on the popularity that it had amongst elder members of the working class. But importantly, they also recognised the universal appeal that bingo had across all demographics.
That’s why, in the beginning, online bingo sites rebranded the game as something to be enjoyed by affluent, young professionals. This new demographic were not just targeted because of their spending power but also because of their ability to organically spread the news of online bingo through emerging forms of social media.
This targeting of a younger audience didn’t totally abandon bingo’s traditional base altogether. The game still stayed true to its roots and was also heavily marketed towards legacy players. It was just that for once, bingo was no longer a closed shop, it was open to all.
Online bingo providers have aimed to target a younger ‘tech savvy’ audience which has helped contribute to their success.
It is one thing to encourage people to sign up with an online bingo site, it’s another to keep them engaged and coming back regularly to make deposits. To become a staple of success, online bingo sites had to offer…
Variety: Bingo in the UK stagnated between the late 1960s and the mid-noughties. The new online version of the game could not fall into the same trap. To keep players content and engaged, internet providers have consistently provided their players with new and exciting variants of the game to try.
Log in to the site of one of the UK’s leading bingo providers and you will find a whole host of bingo variant games to play. From traditional, 90-ball bingo with huge cash prizes, to completely free to play 75-ball bingo that rewards players with prizes rather than cash sums.
Tech Improvements: Another criticism of the land-based bingo sector is that it failed to move with the times when it came to technology; paper cards and plastic dabbers outstaying their welcome.
Fearful of following suit, the online sector has been at the forefront of technological advancements. Whether that be in improving the social interaction tools on sites or exploring the possibilities of AR and VR, the online bingo industry always looks to tech to improve the experience of its users.
Some online bingo providers are investing in VR technology, which is hoped will give the game even more appeal.
Convenience: In the modern world, everyone wants everything right here and right now. Whether that be the shopping you ordered online, your favourite TV show or the latest album from your favourite band.
The online bingo industry is no different. Players want to be able to play their favourite bingo games at the drop of a hat. That’s why so much time and money has been spent on developing top of the range mobile apps to make online bingo as convenient as shopping on Amazon or streaming on Netflix.
Bingo was a dying game, there’s no doubts about that. Left on its own, without the interference of the online sector the game would have eventually died out.
It’s thanks to the forward thinking of the online sector that the game has a long future to look forward to.
It’s also thanks to the younger generation who have welcomed and adopted bingo far better than anyone could have predicted.