It’s fair to say that every sector in the UK has been severely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting lockdowns that followed. Similarly to all other entertainment and leisure venues, bingo halls have been shut for the best part of the year and are likely to remain closed until the vaccine rollout has been successful. So what does the future look like for bingo halls in the UK? Will they recover from the shutdowns enforced due to COVID-19? Or will the future of bingo be played out solely online through the number of UK sites? Let’s take a look.
It’s a worrying time for bingo halls across the UK.
Even before COVID-19 arrived, things weren’t looking good for bingo halls in the UK. With the expected arrival of the new Gambling Act, bingo halls were expecting significant reductions in the number of customers coming through their doors, even before COVID-19 arrived in our lives. When the virus arrived in the UK in 2020, bingo halls were forced to close their doors, with some companies closing forever. In July 2020, Buzz Bingo shutdown 26 stores and cut hundreds of jobs, citing COVID-19 as the primary reason.
The allure of online bingo is too great.
Those in the industry believe that more companies will have to follow Buzz Bingo and close down some or even all of their bricks and mortar venues and focus their efforts entirely on online bingo. In fact, 85% of people that play bingo do so online, and there are so many sites for them to choose from. It’s easy to see why people choose to play online instead of in bingo halls, even without considering COVID-19 as a factor. It’s super-convenient as it can be played literally anywhere with access to the internet, is more sociable thanks to the online chat forums, and is better value for money as players are showered with free sign-up offers and existing promotions. When you think about it, it’s extremely difficult to see how bingo halls can compete in the long term.
Perhaps one final summer for some of the nation’s bingo halls?
With mid-May earmarked as the time when bingo halls can reopen, it will be interesting to see what happens this summer. It’s difficult to know whether players will return to halls in their droves, as they are likely to be enjoying the services of online bingo from the comfort of their own home. What’s more, it’s difficult to predict what people’s behaviour will be like once the pandemic is over. Bingo halls traditionally attract elderly players, and it remains to be seen how people will react to life returning to normal. While some halls will undoubtedly welcome back decent numbers of players, the summer of 2021 could spell the end for others, as it’s difficult to see halls returning to pre-pandemic levels.
Online bingo is the future.
Even if we see people return to bingo halls in the short-term, there’s little question that online bingo represents the future of the industry in the medium-long term. This isn’t something that is unique to bingo. We’re seeing it in so many industries, notably in sports betting, as people are choosing the convenience afforded by online services over the more traditional ways of doing business by leaving the house and heading to a shop. While there’s universal hope that many businesses can return to some sort of normality when COVID-19 is finally behind us, it’s unclear whether bingo halls in the UK will fully recover from the lockdowns, but only time will tell.