The Changing Landscape of Bingo in the United Kingdom

bingo1Bingo is a game of pure luck. Like slots , the perennial casino staple, bingo is a game that doesn’t need much skill or strategy to play. Because it has practically no learning curve whatsoever, the game has been consistently popular ever since it was introduced in the early 20th century; to date, it is estimated that there are at least 100 million bingo players worldwide.

United Kingdom is one of the countries in the world where bingo seems to be a national pastime. Even Her Majesty the Queen herself plays bingo! But recently, there have been quite a few changes in gambling laws and tax regulation that had changed radically changed the vibrant bingo scene in the country.

One: A smoking ban was imposed on all bingo halls nationwide. Though the rationale for this regulation is very admirable (i.e. non-smokers should never be made to bear the inconvenience and health consequences caused by secondhand smoke), it cannot be denied that it turned off many smokers in the bingo-playing population.

Some have pointed out that this might be part of the ongoing image overhaul that most bingo establishments seem to engage in over the last few years. They seem bent on making themselves more relevant to a new demographic- the youth. Instead of the chain-smoking grandparents who while away their extra time and money on bingo games every now and then, bingo halls are targeting the yuppies, the graduate student, the career starter, young people who are looking for a fun, safe, hobby that they can enjoy during downtimes. Sites like 888ladies are at the forefront of this industry, having a profound understanding of what players are looking for, and deliver accordingly.

Two: In spite of the steep competition from online bingo sites, real-life bingo halls will gain immense benefit from the new taxation laws that were recently passed by the UK government. Instead of the usual 20%, tax for brick-and-mortar bingo clubs will be reduced to 15%.

The extra 5% is already a huge deduction; the extra profit that will be gained gives these bingo halls more breathing space to update their facilities and think up new gimmicks to draw in the younger players. All of these changes were made in the last few years or so. It’s pretty exciting to see what’s in store for UK Bingo in the near future.

The extent of these changes can be seen in a series of photographs taken by Michael Hess for this year. It is to be noted that Hess’ 2008 book, Bingo and Social Club, was one of the first photo books that gave an intimate portrayal of UK bingo culture; the photos were taken from various bingo clubs around the country from 2006 to 2009, before any of these changes have been in effect.

But this new series of photographs by Hess just showed how far UK bingo has changed in a few years. Those taken at Grand Bingo in Nuneaton showed a lot of young people playing, while those taken at Club Rialto, Coventry, showed people using tablets instead of the usual paper/cardboard tickets. None of the players were smoking.



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