Bingo is a game that gained momentum in the United States in the first half of the twentieth century, but it received its biggest boost across the Atlantic. The United Kingdom became the home of bingo, and the game enjoyed a heyday in the 1960s and 1970s.
Those days may be slipping further away from the memory banks, but popularity has endured, with the game producing some £910 million in revenue each year. Nowadays, online bingo is the most popular form of the game and can be accessed through many reliable providers such as www.888ladies.com, and however many land-based bingo venues do still remain popular.
A Night on the Town
The rise in playing bingo came at a time when the UK began to relax gambling laws around the country. Legislation passed in the early 1960s allowed physical betting shops to open, and the bingo halls followed suit.
There was no shortage of buildings available for the game. Existing entertainment venues were perfect locations, while others, which had lain dormant, had a new lease of life.
The country was also starting to fully emerge from a period of post-war austerity, so this was something of a perfect storm. A night out at a bingo hall was a great social occasion, and that’s a factor that online operators struggle to match.
Those figures of £910 million include those that are playing bingo online, but land-based halls still claim a significant proportion of that revenue. Sadly, however, some of those physical locations have been forced to close for a number of reasons.
Bingo halls became iconic locations and are remembered very fondly by those who played there. Here, then, are some of the most stunning UK bingo halls, past and present.
After a long and eventful history, the Brighton Hippodrome became a bingo hall in 1967. It originally opened as an ice rink in 1897 before becoming a popular theatre at the start of the next century.
The building was known for its opulent design and large auditorium, which hosted many great acts, including the Rolling Stones and the famed escapologist Houdini. As such, it was perfect for bingo.
The Hippodrome hosted the game for nearly 40 years and was one of the most popular destinations for bingo lovers. Subsequently, it had to close in 2006 and has been inactive since that point.
There may yet be a bright future for the Brighton Hippodrome. In May 2021, the public were invited to look at plans constructed by the new owners. Bingo may or may not be a part of those plans, but it’s great to see that the building hasn’t been lost forever.
The Spanish City, Whitley Bay
In the 1960s, many iconic bingo halls emerged from closing cinemas. Ironically, the Gambling Act of 1960 played a part in their demise as film buffs started to turn elsewhere for their entertainment.
The Spanish City of Whitley Bay is one of the more striking buildings with its central dome and side columns. Opened in 1910, its design does evoke feelings of Spain and holidays at the Costas.
Transformed into a bingo hall in 1961, the curious design and the attraction of Whitley Bay as a holiday resort made the Spanish City a huge success. Its subsequent path has mirrored that of the Brighton Hippodrome.
The Spanish City was closed in the early 2000s before falling into disrepair. Later restored, it now hosts a funfair.
Apollo Bingo, Rhyl
Happily, we now come to a hall that is still being used for bingo. Opened as a cinema in the 1930s, the Apollo started life as an Odeon Cinema in 1937, and it stayed that way until falling numbers forced closure in the 1990s.
Its design is typical of the Odeon buildings of the time, and, thankfully, developers have restored the structure to its former glory. Those seeking a great bingo night out in classic surroundings should now navigate to the Apollo in Rhyl.
The seaside town of Margate in Kent is another resort that has experienced a mixed past. Once a bustling coastal holiday destination, it suffered from the 1980s onwards when cheap package deals saw many Brits head abroad.
The Dreamland building echoes that topsy turvy history. Originally opened in 1923 as a cinema, it carries an iconic design that was unique at the time. It’s been extensively copied since, but those who want to see a true original should head to Margate.
Unlike many other halls on this list, Dreamland Cinema merged with bingo and fun-seekers could enjoy the best of everything from the 1970s onwards. The venue is now well-known for hosting a range of bingo party nights.
Top Rank Club, Birmingham
The Top Rank brand was synonymous with entertainment when this building opened as a cinema in 1935. A product of renowned architect Harry Weedon, it’s one of the best examples of his style.
Bingo effectively saved the building in the 1960s when interest in the cinema waned, and the game continues through to the present day.
Facing the Future
The list of the UK’s most beautiful bingo halls reveals a mix of buildings. Many have bounced back from closure and look to have a much brighter future now than they did ten years ago. For others, the years ahead are less clear, while some have already disappeared.
Elsewhere, some carry on hosting bingo nights. They may be in the minority, but those buildings which are being restored may well have bingo on their future agendas. Online play is on the rise, but the social atmosphere at a physical bingo hall is tough to beat, and that’s a factor that will help these historic buildings move forwards.