“ National chain of Bingo Halls and online gambling. „
Bingo is the new black apparently. It's no longer just a game for old ladies, all the cool kids go there now is what the advertisers tell us. The only person I knew who plays bingo regularly is as far from the stereotype as possible, a young gay man with a mohiccan and piercings and he raves about how good it is. Going to a bingo hall was on my list of things to try one day so when my old friend Louise came round and suggested that we go, I decided to give it a try.
When we arrived at the bingo hall, we needed to join the club to gain entry. This was a simple process and we were given a temporary membership pass and will have our cards sent out soon. Entry to the bingo hall itself is free and you pay for cards. We were given a number of differently coloured books to play several games of bingo including the national game with big prize money at stake. It cost £6.50 each for all our books but costs will vary depending on the day of the week. Carlton does free bingo on a Tuesday night for example.
We made our way through a hall containing numerous slot machines to the main hall and stepped inside. My first impressions were not great, despite the bingo hall being one of the new ones it managed to have a slightly seedy and tired look to it. I was shocked at the vast size of the place and the number of players on a week night. I think every woman over the age of 50 from my town must have been packed in there. There were a couple of younger people and even a few men but in the main the clientelle was post menopausal women.
We found our seats, pretty uncomfortable chairs bolted to a central table and eyes down, it was time to start! In case you've been living in a cave all your life, I will explain the game to you. A caller calls out the numbers from one to ninety which you mark off on your book as they are called out. Each page has three games, the first one to get a line, two lines or a full house is the winner. Prizes range from £5 for one line in a local game up to many thousand pounds if you are the first person to call in a national game.
The caller started to read out the numbers and I got flustered trying to keep up. The numbers were also displayed on a large screen but I didnt have time to look at it. It was almost hypnotic listening to the caller but no time to let your concentration drift. I was pretty amused when the national game was called and a win at another hall was announced there were loud moans and groans all round! The hardcore players take their game very seriously indeed.
Theres a break in the middle of play and I have never seen a group of people empty from a room so quickly, all scurrying to the vast smoking shelter outside. I was starving as I'd not had dinner so decided to see what was on offer. I got some macaroni cheese, chips and a coffee for a mere £3.40. The macaroni was awesome, a nice lump of stodgy comfort food with loads of lovely crispy melted cheese on top. The other options didnt look too good though, including some very dodgy looking burgers. My sister was fleeced at the bar buying drinks; £6 for three soft drinks and our mean glasses of coke had so much ice they tasted watered down.
When the play started again, I've got to admit I was getting bored. Theres only so long that you can dab at numbers before the brain has had enough. We stayed for the late night session (an extra couple of pounds for the books) and won £15 between us, some of the famous beginers luck I have heard of.
Bingo is big business in the UK with 89 million games played in the year 2000 and prizes of up to £500 000. I'm glad that I tried it, it is one less thing on my list of things to try but it's certainly not something that I'm going to be doing regularly.