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Bingo halls (in England)

With the re-entry of the Gauselmann Group into the English-speaking market in 2008 with Blueprint Gaming Ltd., one of the UK’s most successful multi-platform development companies, the games makers have increased their business activities in Great Britain. Consequently, business activities in gaming machine operations were then also expanded. In 2012, the Gauselmann Group took over the English Praesepe Group, which is active only on the British market with a nationwide network of arcades, entertainment centres for families and bingo clubs. With a transaction value of approximately 100 million euros, this was the largest acquisition in the Gauselmann Group’s history. Today, Praesepe operates 181 gaming arcades, family entertainment centres and bingo halls, at which games and gaming machines developed by the Gauselmann Group are also on offer. Europe’s largest bingo hall, in London Cricklewood, also belongs to Praesepe. The company has over 1,800 employees.

Praesepe Group, including its gaming venues run under the brand names ‘Cashino’ and ‘Beacon Bingo’, are managed by the Gauselmann subsidiary Merkur Casino UK Ltd. Praesepe’s integration creates significant synergy effects for the Gauselmann Group. As a result it benefits from the expertise of established employees and can thereby secure a clear competitive advantage through its exchanges with Blueprint. Similarly, just like CASINO MERKUR-SPIELOTHEK in Germany, it is intended to establish Praesepe as a leading provider of arcades in Great Britain. The Gauselmann Group’s icon, the laughing sun, has already been installed at the UK sites.

In 2012, the Gauselmann Group took over the English Praesepe Group, which is active only on the British market with a nationwide network of arcades, entertainment centres for families and bingo clubs. In total 170 entertainment centres and bingo clubs were taken over, where the Gauselmann Group’s proprietary games and amusement machines are also on offer.

Heritage Calling

A Historic England Blog

5 of the Best Bingo Halls in England (That Used to be Cinemas)

Bingo remains one of Britain’s favourite pastimes and during the latter part of the 20th century, bingo halls became part and parcel of national identity.

However, not all of our most spectacular bingo halls were built as such, with many harboring previous lives as cinemas or theatres.

The advancement of home entertainment – from televisions in the 1950s to streaming services today – helped bring about the decline of cinemas. And ever since their peak in the 1930s, cinemas have been closing at a faster rate than they have been opening.

Thankfully, the passing of the 1960 Gaming Act allowed Bingo to come to the rescue of some of the finest pre- and post-war buildings in the country.

Man alive! Here’s (number) 5 of the best bingo halls in England.

1. Top Rank Club (now Mecca Bingo), Kingstanding, Birmingham, West Midlands

Designed by Harry Weedon, this building was originally built as a cinema in 1935, when the Odeon brought the lights of Hollywood to the good people of Birmingham.

Odeon Cinema, Kettlehouse Road, Kingstanding, Birmingham, July 1935 © Historic England Archive BB87 02845

The building showcases the best aspects of art deco architecture. With its sleek linear appearance, the wonder of Hollywood would have felt even closer.

The auditorium and proscenium arch in the Mecca Bingo Club, viewed from the circle © Historic England Archive NWC01 01 0369

Sadly, the cinema closed in 1961, but its listed status and conversion to a bingo hall has preserved the building for generations to come.

2. Gala Bingo Club, Ealing, London

Although it allowed Bingo to come to the rescue of struggling buildings, the 1960 Gaming Act was also a major factor in the demise of the cinema, with many forced to adapt to changing times.

Some were turned into dance halls, concert halls, and bowling alleys, while others saw the success of bingo halls and tried to incorporate it into the cinema – operating as a cinema for a few nights a week and a bingo hall for the rest.

The Gala Bingo Club in Ealing was built as a cinema and was previously a social club prior before becoming a bingo hall.

3. The Spanish City, Whitley Bay, Tyne And Wear

The Spainish City opened in 1908 as a theatre.

At the time, Whitley Bay was a seaside town attracting large numbers of tourists. The building became a dance hall and in the 1920s was one of the major dance venues in the country.

Spanish City, Promenade, Whitley Bay, North Tyneside, Tyne And Wear © Historic England Archive MF99 0756 00025

In 1961, the Spanish City was converted to a bingo hall, but despite initial success, was struggling by the 1990s and closed. Fortunately, the venue reopened in 2018, allowing this magnificent building to continue to be enjoyed.

4. Gala Bingo, Wandsworth, London

This former cinema is Grade I listed and has been described as ‘a world class cinema, without doubt the most lavishly decorated interior of any cinema in Britain and among the most lavish in Europe’.

Interior view of the former Granada Cinema, now a bingo hall, looking across the circle with the stage beyond © Historic England Archive DP134334

But once again, it was the conversion of the building into a bingo hall that saved it.

The original Granada Cinema in Wandsworth, London, 1930 – 1939 © Historic England Archive BB87 02905

The cinema was closed in 1973 and re-opened again three years later as a bingo hall. Now that’s some Grade I bingo!

5. Dreamland, Margate, Kent

The theatre in Margate was built in 1923 and named the Dreamland Cinema when it opened in 1935. At the time, the design was the first of its kind.

The cinema was enlarged in the mid 70s and by this time included a theatre.

Margate seafront with Dreamland Cinema on the right, 2017 © Historic England Archive DP247040

However, the theatre proved unsuccessful and was converted into a Bingo Hall – meaning that at this point, bingo had not replaced cinema directly and both were available at the same time.

What have we missed? Let us know your favourite bingo halls in the comments below.

The passing of the 1960 Gaming Act allowed Bingo to come to the rescue of some of the finest pre- and post-war buildings in England.