Is Online Bingo Killing Traditional Bingo Clubs in the UK?

Image credit: Mobilus In Mobili
Image credit: Mobilus In Mobili

Real money bingo websites enjoy several key advantages over their traditional, land-based counterparts. Online bingo sites are open for business 24/7, are within reach of any customer with internet access, have lower overhead and they know more about their customers and their spending habits.

With all these advantages, it’s only natural to wonder if online bingo will ever put traditional bingo clubs out of business. Sure, online bingo does lose some of the social aspect and we always expect there to be at least a few traditional clubs around, but overall it seems like such an unfair fight. Can the traditional bingo industry even survive?

The natural assumption would be that online bingo will continue to grow while traditional bingo slowly becomes regulated to more of a back-seat role. At least for me, that’s about what I figured would happen eventually. However, I have never actually looked into the question very seriously – until now.

Offline and Online Bingo Markets Compared

In 2011, the total offline bingo industry was worth £680 million as reported by the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC). That bumped up to £700 billion the following year before we see a decline to £671 million in 2013 and another decline to £669 million in 2014. However, the latest year for which data is available shows an increase to £691 million from October 2014 through September 2015.

Quick Look at the Stats

 4/2011 - 3/20124/2012 - 3/20134/2013 - 3/201410/2014 - 9/2015As of 31 Mar 2016
Total Revenue£680.64 m£700.90 m£671.69 m£691.34 m
Total Bingo Clubs646680710666599
Industry Employees15,82914,93813,91313,108

All stats courtesy of the UKGC

Real world bingo revenues have only declined slightly since 2011 but have risen over the past year. That does look promising for operators, but total revenue does not tell the whole story. The total number of bingo clubs in operation hit a new low of 599 as of March 2016 according to annual statistics collected dating back to 2011.

There were 646 clubs in operation in 2012, and that number rose to 680 in 2013 and then again to 710 in 2014. Since then, the number has dropped to our present number of 599 bingo clubs in total in Great Britain. There has also been a small but steady decrease in the number of people employed in the industry.

What we can take from this is that there has been consolidation in the industry, but each remaining bingo club now brings in more revenue than in the past. It may also be worth noting that well over half of all bingo revenue collected since 2011 was generated by mechanised bingo games.

The UKGC reported that online bingo was worth £128 million during the 11-year period 1 November 2014 through 30 September 2015. FT.com also reports that the UK is the largest online bingo market in the world with 3 million active players. Even with that in mind, online bingo only accounts for 3% of the total online gaming market in Great Britain.

In total, there were 58 licensed online bingo operators in the UK as of March 2016. In 2015, that number was 50. Operators due continue to show interest in the market, but online bingo remains a relatively tiny market compared to sports and casino.

The Final Word

The online bingo industry is growing, but the land-based industry remains much larger to this day. Internet bingo is still just too small of a market to seriously threaten the offline business model. This may change in the future as demographics change (with younger people playing online more frequently), but there has been no serious decline in the traditional bingo industry apart from the total number of shops in operation. Revenues remain as high as ever according to the UKGC.

In conclusion: online bingo has not killed the traditional bingo club.