According to the BBC, after May 1st, betting shops opened at a rate of 100 a week. By 1963, UK Bingo club membership alone had reached 14 million; just twenty years later, and there were over 1,600 bingo venues in the UK.
The decline in bingo play during the 1990’s and 2000’s was a result of several factors, including the UK smoking bans, the launch of the National Lottery and the tax regime, with profits taxed at 20%. By 2014, reports from the BBC suggested that the number of bingo halls had plummeted by three-quarters over the previous 30 years.
But things are changing — and the future for bingo, especially online bingo, looks bright. According to statistics published in 2018, there are 3.5million online bingo players in the UK. Importantly, new apps and websites mean that bingo can now be taken wherever you go — with up to 77% of players gambling on the move using their smartphones.
Miles Barron, chief executive of the Bingo Association said, “The reduction has stabilised.
“The decline of bingo has halted, and we have great confidence that volumes will go back up.”
The online bingo industry is a particularly exciting market. Reports from the Gambling Commission reveal that online gambling is increasing in popularity — in 2016, it was estimated that online gaming was responsible for 33% of all gambling revenue. Online bingo, it disclosed, accounted for £153million.
There are many factors that contribute to this rise in participation; the excitement and development of new games, and the evolution of technology certainly helps. Interestingly, the number of younger players has continued to grow; statistics show that players aged 18-24 make up 20% of the online market.
And with the continued proliferation, and acquisition, of online bingo companies, the future looks promising.
Costa Bingo and the 888 effect.
On February 19th 2019, the news broke that online gambling group 888 Holdings would acquire Costa Bingo. Co-founded in 2009 by Richard Skelhorn and Alex Holt, Costa Bingo was to be sold to 888 alongside other JPJ Group brands like Sing Bingo, City Bingo and Fancy Bingo. The agreed purchase price of £18m — with an initial front of £12m followed by a final £6m to be paid in September 2019.
The purchase is just one of several that 888 has made over the past ten years. In 2009, 888 made headlines through their £60m acquisition of Wink Bingo from owners Daub Limited (as well as online brands Posh Bingo and Bingo Fabulous). Founded less than two years prior, Wink Bingo had already secured over 60,000 active players, making it one of the most popular online bingo companies in the world.
Speaking on the acquisition, Gigi Levy - then chief executive of 888 - said: “We are delighted to announce the Wink Bingo acquisition as an expansion of our online bingo footprint in the UK market.”
He added that the Wink Bingo team had garnered “a proven track record of excellence”, and that the acquisition of Wink Bingo would be “a great addition to our growing bingo business.”
How has Wink Bingo fared?
Since its acquisition in 2009, Wink Bingo has positioned itself as one of the most popular online bingo sites in the UK. This has been the result of headline-making collaborations, like their partnership with the Peter Andre Fund, as well as clever advertising campaigns including a sponsorship of ITV2’s ‘The Only Way is Essex’.
Wink Bingo has also continued to evolve the brand, through redesigns and comprehensive rebranding. In April 2018 they launched a brand ‘facelift’ with a pop design aesthetic and the new slogan, “You’ve Earned It”.
A news release on their website describes the rebrand: “Our new pop art style is not only aesthetically pleasing but is able to reflect the bold and bright offers and promotions that you can enjoy here at WINK Bingo.”
The focus on the website’s aesthetic shows the impact that mobile gaming has had on the online bingo industry. Branding, UX and new features to the website (in the Wink Bingo case, it was a new Wink Shop and reward scheme), speak to the shift in significance of mobile.
Where once bingo players would frequent halls, many of them are now playing during their commute, from their bedroom, or just about anywhere they have access to their smartphone and an internet connection. Mobile gaming offers players a broader selection; not just the types of casino games but within the sites themselves. 888ladies, for example, has been described as a fun and vibrant bingo community, while Wink Bingo’s “fresh image” appeals to a broader audience.
With mobile gambling, bingo is more accessible - and more entertaining - than ever before. Unlike the years of bingo halls, the choice of bingo experience is now completely decided by the individual playing - and the selection available to them continues to grow.
Costa Bingo — another win for 888
The acquisition of Costa Bingo - as well as other brands from the JPJ Group - is another success for 888’s evolving portfolio. With so many great brands to showcase, and develop, 888 offers a myriad of options for discerning online bingo players looking to be entertained.
Speaking on the purchase, CEO of 888 Itali Pazner said, “We are pleased to announce the acquisition of this portfolio of brands which includes the well-established Costa Bingo.”
He goes on to add that they were confident that “consolidating these brands into our existing B2C portfolio” would “deliver synergies and growth opportunities”.
The acquisition is a win for 888 — as well as the online bingo players who want to increase their options, and potentially their wins.