Retail expert Mary Portas has reported the findings of her government initiated review into UK high streets and has made 28 recommendations which she believes will help towards regenerating the dwindling British town centres. Bingo Hideout readers will no doubt be surprised to hear that amongst her recommendations is the suggestion that abandoned stores and shops should be turned into dance studios, crèches and yes, even bingo halls to revitalize a sense of community spirit and regeneration.
Every day, we read another story of a local bingo hall closing down yet the Portas report recommends opening new ones in a bid to create the Portas’ vision of the modern high street. In her own words, ‘high streets of the future must be the hub of the community’ and it has to be said bingo is an extremely social and community focused activity which possibly could play a key role.
Of course, when looking in depth at the decline of the bingo hall, many different reasons come up. Time and time again this decline has been blamed on the advent of online bingo and its huge success, in no small part helped by its media coverage, frequent advertising and user friendly interfaces. There are hundreds of online bingo players who will never have stepped foot into a traditional bingo hall so perhaps, if the opportunity was there and rebranded in a way which is more inviting to the online bingo player, the bingo halls in Portas’ vision might not seem so farfetched.
Many of the most popular online bingo brands such as Mecca Bingo or Gala are linked to traditional halls which further highlights how the two bingo mediums don’t need to be completely separate and how you can be a fan of both and enjoy them equally. The social experience involved in visiting your bingo hall can be imitated in an online environment but in reality your friends are in their own homes. Conversely, online bingo pulls in many players who have found traditional bingo too expensive in comparison and as more halls have closed down it has become inconvenient to travel to other clubs.
Portas’ report is designed to help the government find a positive way of making the UK’s high streets attractive again, stopping the endless rows of empty units and inviting customers back. The buzz word of her report is clearly community and traditional bingo halls have been a central element of many communities in years gone by.