These European Bingo Halls Could Soon Be History

innereurope01272016Bingo is a popular pastime in Europe, and for good reason! The game of bingo originated in Europe, and it has been tracked in France and Great Britain as early as the 1600s. Unlike the American game, European bingo typically features 90 balls, and each game crowns three winners. This is because the typical European bingo card is different than its cousins from across the pond. Each card consists of nine columns with five numbers in each row, and every game offers a one and two line card, along with a full house.

In September 2012, the Economist published an article noting the slow and painful demise of traditional bingo halls, despite the game’s rising popularity. For years, old music halls and cinemas were re-purposed to capitalize on a law that legalized commercial bingo in the U.K. Eventually, though, bingo began to evolve. These picturesque settings were incredibly expensive to maintain, and they rarely featured modern conveniences such as air conditioning and snack bars. In their place, new bingo halls began to appear in mini malls and retail parks, boasting features such as food and drink and live entertainment.

For some European residents, the loss of these historic structures represents another step toward a continent that’s quickly forgetting about its roots. For others, the new businesses, offices and living spaces that take their place are a worthwhile trade-off. These days, big chains lead the bingo hall industry, targeting younger players with racy bingo themes and lax rules regarding traditional bingo taboos such as talking during games.

Outside of the U.K, bingo is following a similar trajectory. In some countries, such as Northern Ireland, bingo halls remain a hot destination for residents with some free time, but these clubs are dwindling in popularity following the dramatic rise of online bingo options. The primary protector of traditional bingo halls throughout Europe is the European Bingo Association, which was formed by a number of European nations – including the U.K., Spain, Ireland, Italy and Northern Ireland. The purpose of this group is to look after the interests of its member countries while continuing to promote bingo.

With the fate of traditional bingo halls largely in the air, it’s a great time to take a trip down memory lane and study a few of the coolest bingo halls in Europe. If you want to add a dash of history to your next bingo experience, you’ll probably want to book your ticket sooner rather than later. With the rate at which historic bingo halls are dropping across Europe, no one knows how long these treasures will last.

The Invicta – Kent, England

Like many of Europe’s most revered bingo halls, the Invicta was originally a cinema, but things changed when World War II rocked the continent. During this time, it was converted into a makeshift shelter for families who had lost their homes during the Blitz. Tragically, the building was later hit by bombers, and four of the individuals seeking shelter lost their lives.

Any building that made it through the Second World War in the U.K. certainly had a story to tell, but this seemingly indiscreet bingo hall had more history than most. Since the 1940s, reports have emerged regarding strange noises inside of the Invicta. In the 1970s, there were even sighting of a ghostly man wearing a green uniform. When an investigator was called to get to the bottom of the sightings, it was discovered that the spirit’s name had been Bill Malan, and he had worn a green uniform in his job at the cinema.

If this bingo hall sounds a little creepy, just wait until you pay it a visit. While there’s no doubting the historical significance of the Invicta, it’s hard to debate with players who would rather take their game online than risk running afoul of a ghastly ghoul.

Gaumont Bingo Hall – Sutton, England

The story of this historical bingo hall may sound a bit familiar. Built in the late 1930s, this bingo hall was originally a cinema before being re-purposed years later. In 1965, it’s said that a depressed bingo player took his own life for unknown reasons. Following this incident, a shadowy figure was spotted within the building several times.

In an effort to uncover the truth, the operators of the Gaumont agreed to let a team of ghost hunters spend the night at the hall in 2011. While using a crystal ball to contact the mysterious Grey Man, the team heard the sound of slamming doors and other chilling noises that no one was able to explain. Add in inexplicable lights moving across the walls, and you’ve got yourself a truly spooky bingo destination.

With the presence of these spooky bingo halls leading the list of memorable bingo venues, it’s understandable why bingo players in Europe are turning to online games. In recent years, the number of cards sold at bingo halls around the continent has been on a steady decline for a variety of reasons. In the U.K., for example, players blame a ban on smoking and an ‘unfair bingo tax’ for the industry’s waning popularity. We’re guessing all those ghosts don’t help much, either!

Whether you find yourself in Europe, North America, Australia, Asia, South America, Africa or, even, Antarctica, it’s always a great time to spread your wings and broaden your bingo horizons by trying out the online game. Benefits of playing online include a constant collection of games from which to choose and an unbelievable assortment of bonuses and promotions. Think of all the money you’ll save on daubers alone!

For bingo historians, the window to experience some of the world’s most exciting bingo halls is rapidly closing. Luckily, the game has continued to evolve, so it remains more popular than ever before! Offering a perfect balance of luck and fun, bingo is the game that brings people from all walks of life together in countries around the globe. Grab a card, and take a seat! The next tournament is just about to get underway.