Bingo has a long and fascinating history which can be traced back to early 16th century Italy where it began as the lottery game Il Giuoco del Lotto d’Italia. It has gone on to become a firm favourite around the world becoming particularly popular among female players. Now it’s an online sensation and you can take your pick from over 90 different variants on the UK’s leading Bingo site, Jackpotjoy.
As well as playing Bingo at Jackpotjoy, recent developments allow you to play live via your TV, but this isn’t the first time bingo has made it on to the big screen.
One of the earliest films to feature Bingo, ‘Sins of the Children’, was released in 1930, and tells the story of a German immigrant widower living in a small town in America, trying to scrape together the money to support four children. This film would go on to set the tone for Bingo in films and TV for decades to come.
Bingo is a game that grew in popularity among the cash-strapped people of the Great Depression and post-war era. While sites like Jackpotjoy have opened the game up to everyone, it was once played predominantly by the working classes, and became a useful tool for TV producers and filmmakers looking to convey an earthy, working class feel.
One Depression-era film that puts bingo firmly at the forefront of the story is, ‘King of the Bingo Game’, which was released in 1999 and based on a book of the same name. It tells the story of a struggling African-American who frequents the Bingo halls of Harlem in a desperate attempt to provide for his family.
Before people had the luxury of being able to play online at sites like Jackpotjoy, players had to go out to the local Bingo hall to enjoy a game. These bingo halls would go on to feature as the backdrop to scenes in an array of British wartime dramas. These movies often tackled the issue of poverty and depravation, focusing not just on male lead characters, but the hard working women stuck back in the home after wartime. The Bingo hall became a major leisure pursuit for many of these women, not just a place to meet friends and escape the daily grind of housework, but a place that could potentially provide them with some much-needed extra income.
TV producers and film makers could instantly set the scene by featuring a Bingo hall. And many kitchen sink dramas used the Bingo hall, not just to provide a realistic setting for dialogue between working class women, but also to examine the problems caused by gambling addiction, and to convey a strong sense of community.
More recently, Bingo halls have featured in hit TV show ‘Roseanne’, which used Bingo as the main plot theme for one whole episode. Again, this episode used Bingo to explore the lives of the working class women who work alongside Roseanne and her sister at the local factory. Gillian Armstrong also used it as a theme in her 1988 documentary, ‘Bingo, Bridesmaids and Braces’, detailing the lives of three young Australian women as they journey into adulthood. In addition to this, TV stars have gone on to associate themselves with the game to boost their profiles, such as Eastenders and Carry On film favourite Barbara Windsor, who is now the official Queen of Bingo at Jackpotjoy.
These days, many players enjoy Bingo online rather than visiting their local Bingo hall. Online Bingo has yet to feature on the big or the small screen, but the game’s history and the remarkable level of popularity it now holds, in countries all over the world, are explored in the fascinating ‘Bingo! A Documentary, released in 1999’.