The beginnings of bingo can be traced back to Il Giuoco del Lotto d’Italia, a traditional Italian lottery game that gained popularity back in the 16th century. Two hundred years later, it evolved in France as Le Lotto, where it became popular among the French aristocracy. For years, the game or at least a version of it was played in Europe including the UK, until it arrived in America in the early 1900s. In New York, it finally earned the name and mechanics that is present in modern bingo. And after centuries of development, bingo has exploded as a global phenomenon with millions of players from west to east.
Well-documented by photographer Michael Hess in the book and photo series Bingo & Social Club, the rise and fall of live British bingo halls coincides with the development of gaming technology. More than a way for people to bet with others, bingo which essentially hails from a mathematical algorithm has evolved into a community activity, often used by churches and community charity efforts to raise funds for worthwhile causes. However, as digital forms of entertainment rose in the latter part of the century, live bingo halls saw a larger and larger decline in attendance. Eventually, those involved in running bingo games had to face the inevitable truth: that it had to be moved online in order to compete with the increasingly digital gaming industry.
Nowadays, being able to play bingo online has made it more accessible for people around the world, and this easy-accessibility has led to an uptick in the number of online bingo platforms — all of which are trying to get more players by offering benefits that bingo halls don’t offer. One of these perks is that online bingo providers offer bonuses. The welcome bonuses offered by Gala Bingo can include £30 in bonus money, free bingo for 7 days and over £50k in prizes. This is something that bingo halls have never offered, and increases the appeal of playing online instead of in the few remaining bingo halls across the UK. Additionally, the sheer convenience of playing from the comfort and relative safety of your own home also offers a huge advantage that can’t ever be replicated by live events. In terms of social interaction, vivid social media bingo platforms provide players a way to stay in touch with one another, keeping the spirit of bingo halls alive in cyberspace.
What’s happening to bingo now is the other side of the immersive gaming revolution. Whereas one side is all about advanced and high-tech gaming systems that seeks to engage every relevant facet of players’ senses, the online and digital versions of bingo allow players to experience it as close to the live version as possible – through simple elements that replicate the social dynamics of being in a bingo hall with others. Of course, nothing beats being in a live game with friends and strangers, but if you can’t leave home, it’s a great option for doing something worthwhile on either your phone or computer.