Bingo in TV Pop Culture: Technology Made Bingo a Mainstream Game

Bingo in TV Pop Culture

According to the latest statistics, live bingo is on the decline. Despite being a decades old game, participation appears to have slump in recent years: or so it would seem. Reviewing the latest statistics from the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC), bingo revenue fell from £693 million in 2015, to £681 million in 2018. Combine that the closure of hundreds of live venues across the UK at the turn of the millennium and it seems this once popular game is fading into obscurity. However, things start to look a little different when you peak outside the proverbial box.

Technology Changes the Game

Today, thanks to the wonders of modern technology, bingo doesn’t simply exist inside traditional halls anymore. Indeed, as Danny Lewis of Playright has found, the Internet is now awash with bingo sites. From familiar brands that have embraced a new medium to recent upstarts, the virtual world is full of options. In fact, scrolling through Playright’s 2018 no deposit bingo bonus sites list, the leading operators all seem to offer something for the modern player. From welcome rewards to free games, the likes of Coral, Gala and Wink Bingo have worked to make their platforms appealing to customers of all persuasions.

These tactics appear to be working. Despite live bingo revenue falling over the last three years, online takings have increased. Backing up the findings from Lewis, the UKGC has noted a 3.7% increase in remote (i.e. online) revenue to £4.9 billion between 2016 and 2017. Put simply, bingo hasn’t gone away, it’s just started to find a new home and, more interestingly, a new audience. While it was once the case that bingo halls were filled with the older generation, it’s now become a game for everyone. The best evidence for this is the place it now has in TV pop culture. Whether its adverts, shows, movies or even the radio, bingo is now calling out to a new generation of players.

Better Call Bingo

For example, Better Call Saul, the popular spin-off of Breaking Bad, has boarded the bingo bus in recent years. Whether it’s going to feature in the highly anticipated fifth season remains to be seen. However, if we go back to the first season, episode seven is actually called ‘Bingo.’ First airing on March 16, 2015, the episode sees Saul offer his own unique take on the famous bingo patter. With legal issues and health problems on his mind, the calls are less “legs 11 and two fat ladies 88” and more of “B as in battleships. B as in Belize, I’ve heard it’s a beautiful place but, let’s face it, I’m never going to get to go there.”

It’s not just Saul that’s had some fun with the game. The 2009 movie Rampage wasn’t afraid to poke fun at a few clichés that surround the game. Playing on the idea that players are caught in a monotonous cycle of marking numbers, the protagonist Bill Williamson walks into the bingo hall unnoticed. Despite wearing a military-grade bodysuit and brandishing two guns, the players are oblivious to his presence. The only Time Williamson steals their attention for a brief moment is when he steals a ball and interrupts the game. In a similar vein, Johnny Knoxville wasn’t afraid to have some fun in a bingo hall during the filming of Bad Grandpa.

The Movement of Bingo into Pop Culture

Although the point of Knoxville’s scene is to disrupt a real game, it also gives a quick insight into some of the diversity that’s starting to creep into the game. The majority of players in the hall are old, yes. However, there are some younger males in the background. When the movie was released in 2013, the online bingo movement was still in its infancy. However, even in this pop experts reference, its impact was starting to reveal itself. If we fast-forward to 2018, bingo is anything but an old person’s game. Anyone that’s listened to Scott Mills on BBC Radio 1 will have heard of Innuendo Bingo. Is it a traditional game of bingo? No. However, it is an example of how the game has entered the mindset of the younger generation.

In other words, more people now use the Internet as a source of entertainment and information. Because the number of online bingo sites has increased dramatically over the last five years, it’s now showing up on the radars of people it wouldn’t have before. Even if someone doesn’t actually play bingo, they’ll have heard of it and, most likely, seen an online bingo site. With this being the case, presenters like Mills can use bingo as a buzz word to bring some added interest to his on-air game. The stats actually help to prove this fact. Reviewing their own data and that of the industry at large, Wink Bingo found that only 12.54% of modern players are aged between 55 and 64. In contrast, 25-to-34-year-olds make up the majority of online bingo players (34.73%).

Put simply, bingo isn’t dying along with the senior citizens that once used to play it. In reality, bingo is alive and well online and on our screens. With more youngsters playing the game, the chances are we’re going to see it appear in TV shows and movies a lot more in the coming years. Indeed, if it found its way into Better Call Saul and the like, there’s every chance we could see it in other mainstream hits over the next decade.

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