Bingo halls in the United Kingdom date back to 1961, following the Betting and Gaming Act 1960. More and more purpose-built halls were opening every year up until 2005.
Wales was ahead of the trend though as the oldest bingo hall in the country dates back to 1909, in the town of Tonypandy, located in the county borough of Rhondda.
Judges Bingo have been entertaining crowds in their hall for more than a century now and have earned the nickname the ‘Las Vegas of the Valleys’ locally.
The hall itself is most well known for its entertaining bingo events, but it has also played host to boxing and snooker tournaments over the years too.
Since the increase in popularity of online bingo and other online casino games, bingo halls around the United Kingdom have not only declined in growth but more are now closing down than new ones opening up.
That is not the case in Wales where the game appears to be as popular as it ever has among the locals. And whilst we all want to win the jackpot on the night, many use these events for their weekly social to meet up with friends old and new, as well as families to have an evening out of the home together.
As the night goes on, focus is on the host who calls the numbers out as the clock ticks down to the biggest prize of all that could quite literally change the life of one lucky winner on occasions, when the jackpot is well into the four-figure sum. In fact, the prize has been as high as £200,000 this millennium, whilst the national game back in 1986 would regularly give out £50,000.
The game is a family tradition for many; a game that today’s older players grew up with. Many would go with their grandparents a couple of times a month, sometimes even a couple times a week, and would meet up with other relatives at the social hub. It is a fun, social game that everyone can play and enjoy. There are still games being played in halls every single day of the week in Wales.
For many parts of Wales, players use the excuse of the loss of their major industries several decades ago as to why they make sure to attend bingo halls – a community looking out for one another.
However, if you attend a bingo hall in Wales, you can be sure to find the young demographic too – singles and couples in their 20s and 30s regularly play in person. This isn’t so much the case over the border in England, where the younger generation prefer to play the game online, on sites such as Wink Bingo Online.
Bingo isn’t going to go away anytime soon. In fact, online bingo has only helped to expand the popularity and awareness of the game. With technology continuing to advance year on year, it only makes it easier to integrate family members and bring back the traditional feel of the game.
For example, online vendors allow you to create private rooms, which means you can play with your friends and family and no strangers, whilst also using an app such as Zoom to chat face-to-face, regardless of where each member is located and regardless of their time zone.
This has helped make somewhat of a resurgence with youngsters getting more and more involved, something not widely associated with the game. Typically, it is a game associated with the over 60s.
Back in the day, its reputation of being a game for seniors was justified, with the only youngsters playing being those dragged along by their parents and/or grandparents. A lot of the younger generation were not so keen on playing and even used to get put off by the idea of playing because of this.
Having started to shake off that reputation with the help of the internet and mobile apps, bingo refuses to lose its sense of community. That is certainly the case in Wales, though not so much in rest of the United Kingdom.
Today, if you wish to go out with your friends, bingo is an option. You can have a few drinks each at the venue, play a game that is entertaining, and you can all hang out and socialise together.
The simple rules of the game are certainly part of the appeal, and of course, the jackpots are too. But whereas with the likes of poker and other casino games, you need to understand the rules and get some experience under your belt, before playing a group game, bingo can be played by and won by rookies just as easily as the more experienced player.
For anyone reading this not familiar to bingo, the rules can be explained in a couple of sentences. A host calls the numbers that are randomly selected, either by an electronic random number generator or by using balls in a mechanical draw machine, or simply drawing counters from a bag. Players cross the numbers that are drawn when they match the numbers on their cards until they have crossed off a winning combination.
The winning combinations in Wales, which are slightly different to variations in the likes of the United States, Australia, France and other countries, are:
Four corners: The numbers in the leftmost and rightmost positions on the top and bottom lines of the square
Line: A horizontal line of five numbers on your card
Two Lines: Any two lines on the same card
Full House: All 15 numbers are crossed off on the card
Once all the numbers required to win a prize have been marked off on a single card, the player shouts to attract the host’s attention. Traditionally most players will shout “bingo”. Some players may prefer to shout “line” or “house” depending on the prize. A member of staff then checks the claim.
There is often an interval midway through the game. In Welsh bingo halls it is becoming more common for mechanised cash bingo to be played.