In the UK, bingo has a longstanding - and fascinating - history. According to the Liverpool Echo, bingo games were being played on British soil as far back as the 1700s. Early versions of the game, called ‘numbers clubs’ continued to be played throughout the 18th and 19th century; the 90-ball bingo game - bingo as we know it - wasn’t popular until World War I, and was played recreationally.
The Betting and Gaming Act of 1960 had a compelling effect on gambling’s following. On 1 May 1961, legal betting shops opened, with the aim of taking illegal gambling off the streets. Gambling for small amounts for skill-based games, such as bridge, also became legal, and pubs were also allowed to host slot machines at their premises.
By 1963, bingo club membership in the UK was at . The popularity of the game continued to grow throughout the 1970s; by the mid to late 1980s, there were over 1,600 bingo venues holding games for thousands of daily players throughout the UK.
The rise of the internet, smoking bans as well as the 1994 launch of the National Lottery created stagnancy in the growth of bingo clubs. But as the traditional bingo halls suffered, its online patronage was on the rise; the National Bingo Game Association estimates that there are more than 3.5 million online bingo players. Interestingly, many of the online bingo players, and online casino players in general, are women.
Online bingo is proving to be an increasingly appealing option for casino fans around the world, playing and socialising online through online bingo chat rooms. There is perhaps no greater testament to its continued success, than the purchase of the Costa Bingo group by online gambling and casino firm, 888.com.
About the acquisition
On 19th February 2019, it was announced that 888 Holdings - one of Britain’s largest gambling companies - had acquired the Costa Bingo from the JPJ Group. At an agreed purchase price of £18 million, the deal meant 888 acquired Costa Bingo as well as City Bingo, Sing Bingo and Fancy Bingo.
Founded in Gibraltar in 2009, Costa Bingo has become a well-known brand on the online gaming landscape. In January 2014, the website made news through its Godzilla-style tv advert featuring former Spice Girl Melanie Brown.
Having been developed on Dragonfish, the group’s first-class B2B platform, we are confident that consolidating these brands into our existing B2C portfolio will deliver synergies and growth opportunities by applying the full extent of 888’s core capabilities in product, marketing and customer relationship management to their operations.”
888.com was founded by Israeli entrepreneurs Avi and Aaron Shaked and Shay and Ron Ben-Yitzhak. Covering casino, poker, business, bingo and sport - as well as social and mobile gaming – 888’s own brands include 888casino, 888poker, 888bingo and 888sport.
Over the years, it has expanded its bingo offering to include 888ladies - as well as acquiring other brands such as Wink Bingo, Tasty Bingo, Posh bingo and more. According to their website, all of 888’s bingo sites offer 90-ball and 75-ball games, as well as online slot machines, scratch cards and jackpots.
888 and Wink Bingo
Launched in early 2008, Wink Bingo has grown in popularity. Within its first two years it garnered over 60,000 active players. The potential of the bingo website was instantly recognised by 888, who purchased the business - which included Wink Bingo as well as Posh Bingo and Bingo Fabulous - from owners Daub Limited for £60m in December 2009.
Gigi Levy, 888’s Chief Executive at the time, said, “We are delighted to announce the Wink Bingo acquisition as an expansion of our online bingo footprint in the lucrative UK market.”
He added: “The Wink team has a proven track record of excellence and will be a great addition to our growing bingo business”.
Since then, Wink Bingo has driven the rise in online bingo gameplay through several clever advertising campaigns and pop culture partnerships. In 2011, Wink Bingo kicked off a new campaign by sponsoring Bafta-winning reality TV show ‘The Only Way is Essex’.
The same year, Wink Bingo launched a new digital magazine. Describing it as ‘the first magazine for true bingo lovers’, the magazine was titled Winky and featured editorial content as well as Winkipedia, a bingo encyclopaedia containing educational articles for bingo fans.
In 2015, Wink Bingo extended its consumer-facing reach through a partnership with the Peter Andre Fund — with the aim to raise money for Cancer Research UK. This partnership included the introduction of new themed bingo games, with 30% of the proceeds being donated to the charity.
The campaign also included a raffle to meet Peter Andre at an exclusive performance in Manchester.
A colourful future for bingo lovers
With the acquisition of Costa Bingo by 888, fans of online bingo will have plenty of options to choose from. Game quality will continue to improve, as players seek out the very best gaming experience from their favourite websites.