Ask most people what bingo means to them and chances are that they’ll say it’s an old-fashioned game played in cavernous halls and presided over by a caller in a glittery jacket.
And, while this undoubtedly used to be the case, times have changed. So, rather than disappearing forever, bingo has been reborn for the 21st century and the new generation who are constantly craving new forms of entertainment.
The impetus for this renaissance of bingo culture has, arguably, been the meteoric rise of the game online. From small beginnings, now there are a wide number of sites on which you can play online bingo to win real money. The very best of these sites offer a wide variety of different games and jackpots which, while not always life-changing, do offer pretty generous prizes.
But where the online sites have really nailed it is in creating the same kind of social atmosphere that was always a big part of the traditional bingo hall. With chat rooms and online communities, they really are a place to meet up virtually with friends and to make plenty of new ones in the process.
A knock on-effect of the new generation of players being attracted to the game has been the rise of nightclub bingo events. In these, a club’s taken over for the night by one of the several franchises now in operation for a few hours of let-your-hair-down fun.
While the bingo forms the central part of the night, and is taken very seriously indeed, a great deal more goes on too. For example, karaoke is generally in the mix somewhere and audience participation is encouraged even more with dance-offs, singalongs and wacky competitions. There are also some pretty unusual prizes on offer too, ranging from life-size cut-outs of celebrities to boxes of breakfast cereal.
The wildest of these nights also involve drag contests – a phenomenon whose origins go back to Seattle in the 1990s when it was first introduced as a fundraiser for AIDS charities. In the States, there’s even the notorious cross-dressing group called Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence whose bingo events have become legendary.
Another element of the game that is having to move on for the 2020s is the traditional bingo caller’s slang. No longer is it really acceptable to call out “Two Fat Ladies, 88” or relevant to say “Time For Tea, 53. Instead, alternatives that have been put forward include “Wills and Kate, 88” and “Gluten-Free, 53”. It might not be popular with traditionalists, but you do have to move with the times.
Ironically, it also seems like the traditional bingo hall is making something of a comeback, albeit in a far more luxurious and accommodating way than ever before. It also looks like the halls are now taking a leaf out of the online sites’ book with many replacing the old cards and daubers with tablets.
So it really is welcome back to a great old institution. And, for many people, it’s not come a moment too soon.