A History Of Bingo In The UK

A History Of Bingo In The UK Part 1: 1716-1900: Beginnings

Playing Bingo commissioned the historian Carolyn Downs to write a history of bingo in the UK for the website. This piece is based on her doctorate studies and looks at the early origins of the game and its development in the UK throughout the 20th century, up to the birth of the modern era with the implementation of the 1968 Gaming Act.

Author: Carolyn Downs

The History Of Bingo

If press headlines about bingo were the only source investigated it would appear that in 1961 commercial bingo developed from nowhere. Eric Morley of Mecca Bingo later stated, ‘I invented bingo’, and press headlines in the early 1960s included, ‘Bingo’s hold on womenfolk’, ‘Woman’s Bingo Bonanza’ and ‘Wife’s bingo led to divorce’.[1]
Editorial comments were alarmist; the phrase ‘Bingoholics’ was coined and it was stated that, ‘Gambling today is a response to a commercially offered opportunity’.[2] From the day commercial bingo begun media coverage encouraged a belief that women’s gambling was a new and dangerous phenomenon, fuelled by greedy leisure entrepreneurs.[3] In fact, there is a long tradition of random numbers games; of which lotteries are the most common example, organised amongst the working classes and often by and for women. Before the Betting and Gaming Act (1960) allowed commercial bingo to take off the game (then known as tombola, lotto or housey-housey) was regularly played by hundreds of thousands of people.

Bingo’s Origins: 16th – 19th Centuries

In Britain the earliest lottery took place in the reign of Elizabeth I (1558-1603) and was aimed at rich people. However, gambling was popular amongst all people, with even the poorest recorded as playing ‘shove groat’ in ale houses. As Protestantism became ever-more Puritan in its outlook gambling was increasingly frowned upon and was severely restricted once the Puritans took power in 1649. The change to a government based on Protestant principles meant people had to keep gambling out-of-sight of the authorities. After Charles II was restored as King in 1660 public and private gambling became hugely popular and gambling was often run as business, making good profits.

Bingo is a game of pure chance, based upon random numbers, and so the history of bingo as a leisure pursuit lies in the random numbers games of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century. The first British occurrence of a game resembling bingo, based upon random numbers, organised by and for working women was in 1716. An order raised by the Lord Mayor of London prohibited the barrow women from dicing. They were clearly not too impressed at their gambling being interfered with and got round the law by carrying wheels marked with numbers:

Which being turned, govern the chance by the figure an hand in the centre points to when stopped.[4]

This game was recorded as still customary amongst barrow women in 1808.

From 1710 in the reign of Queen Anne the British government promoted a State Lottery to help boost the government income. There was widespread newspaper reporting of lottery winners and their backgrounds, which made people aware of the large prizes available and that these were sometimes won by poor people.

The £20,000 prize, drawn on Friday, is divided amongst a number of poor persons; a female servant in Brook Street, Holborn, had a sixteenth; a woman who keeps a fruit stall in Greys Inn Lane another.[5]

A lottery win seems to have been widely understood as a way of rising from poverty to at least comfort. The State Lottery sold tickets at ten guineas; these were clearly beyond the reach of the poorer classes in society. However, tickets were divided up into sixteenths, and shares in a ticket could be purchased for twelve shillings and sixpence. Tickets in the State Lottery were only available for a limited period and this was insufficient to satisfy the appetite of the public for this popular game of chance, giving rise to the many instances of illegal, penny lotteries, the ‘little goes’ and ‘numbers clubs’ that were hugely popular amongst the slum dwellers of London.[6]

The illegal, private lotteries, with tickets available for as little as a halfpenny, were immensely popular with poorer gamblers, especially women. These were run, virtually unchecked, throughout the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. The Newgate Calendar dated 11 August 1795 reported that:

On Friday night last, in consequence of searching warrants…upwards of thirty persons were apprehended at the house of one M’Call…and in the house of J. Knight… where the most destructive practices to the poor were carrying on, that of Private Lotteries (called Little Goes)… The wives of many industrious mechanics, by attending these nefarious houses, have not only been duped out of their earnings (which ought to have been applied to the earning of bread for their families), but have even pawned their beds, wedding rings and almost every article they were possessed of, for that purpose.[7]

The parallel with a modern game of bingo is clear. A large number of women got together to gamble. In fact there were occasions where over 300 women were arrested for playing illegal lottery games.[8]

A parliamentary committee of 1808 estimated that each servant in London probably spent twenty-five shillings a year on illegal lotteries and insurances. They calculated that if all other wage-earning classes in the metropolis were spending similar amounts on such gambling then perhaps half a million pounds sterling was placed on various numbers games in London each year. Thus it can be understood that while the individual amounts staked were small, the actual volume of such gambling was significant and widespread.[9]

The earliest reliable description of a game of bingo dates back to around 1838 when the archaeologist John Stephens was travelling in Mexico. He was fascinated by the game of ‘La Lotteria’, played by hundreds of people at a time, and offered an account that shows how little the game has changed over the years:

Every person at the table had before him or her a paper about a foot square, covered with figures in rows, and a small pile of grains of corn, and by its side a thumping stick some eighteen inches long and one in diameter; while amid all the noise, hubbub, and confusion, the eyes of all at the tables were constantly upon the papers before them. In that hot place, they seemed like a host of necromancers and witches, some of the latter young and extremely pretty, practising the black art. [10]

Within arms length was an imp of a boy, apparently the ringleader in this nocturnal orgy, who stood on a platform, rattling a bag of balls, and whose intermittent screeching, singsong cries had throughout risen shrill and distinct above every other sound.[11]

The principle of the game, or the scheme, consists of different combinations of numbers, from one to ninety, which are written on papers, nine rows on each side, with five figures in each row…. Every player marks on his paper with a grain of corn the number called off, and he who is first able to mark five numbers in a row coins the purse. This he announces by rapping on the table with the stick, and by standing up in his place. The boy sings over again the numbers drawn, and if, on comparison, all is found right, delivers the purse. The game is then ended and another begins.[12]

While this description comes from the New World the game of lotto as described here was also played in Malta, Spain and Italy. The British Navy had a large garrison in Malta from 1814 and seems to have picked up the game from the Maltese. The game was called tombola was officially sanctioned on Royal Naval ships from c1880 (and in the British Army as House from c1900).[13] By 1914 the game was well established as a military pastime, popular with all ranks. The numbers used went from 1-90, with five figures in each row, in exactly the same fashion to that described in Mexico, with bottle tops, uniform buttons or pieces of bread used by players to mark off the numbers called out.

A History Of Bingo In The UK Part 2: 1900-1945: Housey-Housey, Tombola and Lotto

The second part of Carolyn Downs’ history of bingo and its development in the UK.

Author: Carolyn Downs

The outbreak of the First World War in 1914 was eight years after the government had attempted to prevent gambling by poorer people through banning cash betting.[14] Yet, despite one arm of government prohibiting gambling, officially sanctioned gambling was taking place in the forces as a means of raising mess funds for servicemen. Accounts of life in the armed forces over the period 1914-1918 feature descriptions of bingo, and of the various cheats that took place, and an army chaplain in World War One saw housey-housey as a two edged sword:

[House is] a symptom of widespread gambling from top to bottom in the army, [but is] useful in preventing the more virulent forms of gambling spreading amongst the soldiers.[15]

Despite the ambivalence of opinion about bingo in the First World War it appears to have been a popular game and one where potential prizes were large. One veteran recollected a housey-housey game in 1915 at Catterick Barracks, Yorkshire. These games were popular with the men, but the sergeant and the corporal evidently fixed the games:

Well we used to go to the canteen at night and they’d run what’s called bingo now. Well, we called it housey-housey, but the trouble was there was these old soldiers, and we youngsters, and they’d get their own mates calling out ‘Bingo’ and the cards was never checked, so you never knew. [16]

The game was also popular in the trenches, during lulls in the shelling:

The most complex game tolerated by the authorities was house. Twenty-four cards were issued at two shillings and six pence a time. Each card had three lines with five numbers on. One man handled the cash and cards while the other called out the numbers.[17]

Bingo was not only played in the trenches, there were fund-raising games in England, with the more liberal churches running bingo games (usually called tombola) and lotteries, although the dubious legal status of such games prevented the larger charities from adopting gambling as a fundraising tool.

After the Armistice the British working classes were promised a land fit for heroes, and expectations were high. Many people felt let-down by the government in the inter-war years as times were hard and there was severe poverty in the manufacturing regions of Britain. However, gambling remained a popular pastime amongst the working classes despite the illegality of the pastime. In 1926 the Liverpool Council of Voluntary Aid reported that ‘Fifty percent of women have the betting habit’ in some areas of the city, although they sadly did not report on what types of gambling the women were participating in.[18] It was certainly the case in towns and cities where there were regular raids on properties used by illegal bookmakers that the proportion of men to women observed by the police seems to be generally 60 per cent men to 40 per cent women. While some women may have been laying bets for husbands and fathers, it seems probable that many more were betting on their own behalf.

Many of the men who returned from the war continued to play the game of housey-housey (called tombola by Royal Navy veterans), usually as part of the evening entertainments at the many working men’s, Royal British Legion and other ex-services clubs. Indeed, it is in the interwar years that the first prosecutions for illegal games of housey-housey are found in British archives.[19] What was effectively commercial bingo was being played throughout Britain. In Barrow-in- Furness from the 1920s the local market had sideshows running bingo, then:[20]

In the mid 1930s to late 1930s there was a fair running for a while, a semi-permanent fair at West Shore and that included the equivalent of bingo…She always spent modestly, but she was lucky.[21]

Housey-housey was also played on waste ground and in yards of industrial areas by crowds of youths, although these gatherings were usually broken up by the police, rather than prosecuted with the full force of the law.[22] One of the largest fines for commercial bingo operating illegally in the inter-war years was the result of an investigation that took place in Peckham in 1939. The Metropolitan Police were concerned about the spread of commercial bingo, noting that:

Since 1937 a large number of prosecutions for bingo have taken place all over the Metropolitan Police Divisions. It is quite immaterial whether the prizes are in cash or food. [23]

In the Peckham area the police were aware of seven operators, of whom the most noticeable was Louis Hart, who had premises on the High Street. Mr. Hart had been running games since at least 1937 and had been prosecuted on two previous occasions.[24] Between thirty and sixty players were observed at each of the sessions of bingo, which run from 10am until 6pm daily. There was often a queue of people waiting for a bingo board to become vacant so that they could join the game.[25] The set-up was described very accurately. The players sat or stood around an open rectangle made up of tables on which were placed the numbered bingo boards. Inside the rectangle was sufficient gangway for two assistants to move around freely during the game. One assistant would take the stake money and hand out the pasteboard squares that were used for covering numbers called.[26] The second assistant was in charge of the system for generating the random numbers.[27] In the centre of the open rectangle was a large box, divided into numbered sections – one to ninety. The assistant had a supply of wooden balls that were handed in turn to each player; the player would throw the ball into the box, thus selecting the next number to be called.[28] This was considered far fairer by players than numbers drawn from a bag but was necessarily a slow process. In order to maintain the interest of the players and to accommodate the slow selection of numbers the rhyming calls were an essential part of the game.

Sergeant Stratton noted in her statement that the game was extremely popular, and played ‘mostly by women of the poorer class.’[29] In Peckham the prize for most games was 1/3 but at 2 pm each day there was a 10/- prize game, which attracted long queues of players:

There are never less than thirty players, and often a full sixty, each paying one penny per game; 1/3 profit per game minimum. The games last less than two minutes.[30]

There are a number of interesting aspects to this case. The first is that commercial gaming attracting women players was so prevalent in the Metropolitan Police District, but it is also significant that the police state that the game is called bingo. The Americans claim that Edwin Lowe coined this name in c1929. It seems strange that in an era when Americanisation of culture was largely through the medium of film and music that the name would travel across the Atlantic to working class Peckham so rapidly, especially as there is no American film of the era featuring the game.

Housey-housey developed as a seaside and fairground game during the years between 1918 and 1960, with the division between prize and cash bingo becoming well established early on. The legislation regarding the playing of fairground gambling games for prizes had not been altered since 1853 and was difficult to enforce, while the playing of housey-housey (also known as tombola and bingo by the inter-war years) in permanent venues could be conducted under the restrictive conditions of the Betting and Lotteries Act (1934) which allowed small lotteries: ‘incidental to bazaars, sales of work, fetes, and other entertainments of a similar character’ as long as the whole proceeds after deducting expenses were for ‘purposes other than private gain’.[31] In theory these were very restrictive conditions: no cash prizes and no more than £10 to be spent on prizes, and definitely no advertising to promote the game. However, the 1934 laws were ‘not strictly observed and cannot be fully enforced’.[32] In many instances local police simply turned a blind eye to such amusements; this may very well have been a result of a cash inducement, although in cases where complaints were made action was often taken. A more common procedure was for the organiser of the game to give a token amount to charity while keeping a portion for profit and offering either cash or goods as a prize. It is claimed by Roger Bingham (sadly with no reference to a source) that a Mr. Frank Ashworth established a housey-housey stall in Morecambe’s Winter Gardens fairground in 1928.[33] It is also claimed that he called the game bingo; this would give the name a British rather than American antecedence but is not verifiable.[34] Whilst there is no corroborating detail for this claim, an account of the early development of this type of bingo is provided in the childhood memoir of the author Lillian Beckwith (born in Ellesmere Port in Cheshire, 1916):

Towards the end of October the throbbing, juddering steam engine arrived pulling a train of high piled wagons and the caravans of the attendants, and within hours the waste ground was enclosed by hoopla stalls and booths of every description…I rode on the roundabouts and the cakewalk and I played ‘housey housey’.[35]

On winning games she at first chose presents for her parents, but found that the prizes she thought extremely attractive were not appreciated:

Once it was a purple and gold vase; another time it was a black teapot resplendent with pink and blue and yellow daisies which father described as being a ‘bargee pot’; yet another time it was a mirror so profusely painted that you couldn’t see your face in it except through a clump of bulrushes… The next time I won I chose a large tin of toffees for myself. When I opened the tin I found it was only half full so I took it back to the stall and complained. The Clarkson girl gave me what looked like an enormous box of chocolates in exchange but when I opened that it wasn’t chocolate at all, it was coconut candies which tasted of soap.[36]

A description of fairground bingo from the operator’s perspective provides an account of a game that used seventy-five numbers, on bingo boards with a frame that allowed the numbers to be marked by bottle tops. Throwing a rubber ball into a box that was divided into 75 sections generated ‘random’ numbers, although as ‘the balls were really awkward to get out again,’ the need for the rhyming calls always associated with bingo is obvious, the calls slowed the game down.[37] A player joining the game would put 3d (or 6d for two boards) on the side and a light would be switched on above the player to alert the caller. Typical prizes would be ‘tin cars, soft toys, kiss-me-quick and straw hats, water pistols and feathery things’.[38]

An account of the life of the child of a regular soldier in the inter-war years also includes recollections of bingo games, organised by his father:

In the army he was in constant demand as a housey-housey barker, in what is known today as bingo. There, on stage before packed houses, he would reach into the bin, pull out a counter, and intone in mea­sured ca­dence, dead-pan, in his Sergeant-Major voice, NUMBER ONE – KELLY’S EYE. He had a pseudonym for every number up to a hundred. I can remember some of them: she was only—sweet sixteen, all the sixes—clickety-click, key of the door—twenty-one, a couple of ducks—twenty-two —and so on. The soldiers would join in to chant the numbers.[39]

In the late 1930s Rowntree conducted a second study of poverty in York and commented of gambling that, ‘A vast number of men and women indulge in this form of amusement.’[40] He referred to games that were played ‘solely as a means of gambling’ describing the most popular of these as “housey-housey”.[41] The game was played on cards with nine or fifteen numbers. The dealer had a box of numbered cards (one to ninety) rather than a bag of numbered tiles as described in other games. If a number on the punter’s card was called out that number was covered with a matchstick or piece of paper. Typical stakes were between 1d and 6d, with games being run both purely for gambling with the entire stake taken by the winner, but also to raise funds for outings organised through pubs.[42] It should not be thought that the potential of the game as a money-spinner was only recognised by the working classes, the Conservative MP William Rees Davis illustrated the appeal of the game across age and class when he recalled how in the 1920s:

By the age of ten I went to my first Conservative fete as a Young Briton, where I engaged in housey-housey. [43]

Despite the use of the game as a middle-class fund-raiser, it does not appear to have surpassed the ubiquitous and extremely respectable whist drive in the affections of the upwardly socially mobile.

The spread of housey-housey as a gambling pastime was undoubtedly assisted by its adoption by the services in a century where two World Wars ensured that the majority of the population would have contact with military service and its associated way of life. The game was played by officers and men, and was entirely voluntary. Whether as a result of the boredom of war, or the prospect of winning a prize, the game was immensely popular with descriptions of games including accounts of large numbers of eager participants. Harold Sidall played the game as a sailor and described one game:

One of the highlights was on the evening of payday, when Tombola – known as Bingo – was played in the Fleet Canteen. With such a huge collection of players from the two fleets, the money prizes were something to be desired. When the Tombola caller called “Eyes Down”, the silence became momentarily overwhelming. Concentration honed to a fine pitch, pencils at the ready and the first number called in naval jargon was comparable to the “They’re Off” at Derby Day. The last house of the evening was always called a ‘doubler’, which meant that the price of a ticket was doubled. Just imagine the value of the ‘House’ and the anticipation of the crowd! With the game being drawn out there would be frequent shouts of “Shake ’em up”, as frustrated punters waited for that certain number. When that certain number was called, the cry of “Here you are” rang out and an almighty groan would come from the remainder of the hopefuls. When the winner went up to collect his cash a number of appellations of doubtful origin would be rendered with good humour, but ‘twould be like water off a duck’s back…[44]

Officers also played the game, although if Evelyn Waugh’s account (first published in 1952) is considered accurate, the game was not so well known amongst them. Nevertheless, the description from Chapter Three (Apthorpe Furibundus) of his book Men at Arms (part one of the ‘Sword of Honour’ trilogy) bears many similarities to the games described by other ranks serving in the Second World War.[45]

The Brigadier announced after dinner in the mess:

“When the tables have been cleared there will be a game of Housey-housey, here. For the benefit of the young officers I should explain that it is what civilians, I believe, call Bingo. As you are no doubt aware, it is the only game which may be played for money by His Majesty’s Forces. Ten per cent of each bank goes to the Regimental Comforts Fund and Old Comrades’ Association. The price of each card will be three pence.”

…The brigade major sat at the corner of a table with a tin cash box and a heap of cards printed with squares and numbers. Each bought a card as he came in…
At last after much borrowing and searching of pockets the game began suddenly with the command: ‘Eyes down for a house.’ Guy stared blankly at the Brigadier, who now plunged his hand in the pillow-case and produced a little square card.
‘Clickety-click,’ said the Brigadier disconcertingly. Then: ‘Sixty-six.’ Then in rapid succession, in a loud sing-song tone: ‘Marine’s breakfast number ten add two twelve all the fives fifty-five never been kissed sweet sixteen key of the door twenty-one add six twenty-seven legs eleven Kelly’s eye number one and we’ll…’
He paused. The regular officers and ‘Tubby’ Blake gave tongue: ‘Shake the bag.[46]

There are several important things to note about this passage. The first is that Evelyn Waugh calls the game ‘bingo’, although this name was apparently not used by troops during the Second World War, even though it was being used in London in 1939.[47] Waugh may have chosen to use it here because The Times were increasingly styling the game bingo in the 1950s, accordingly he may have thought that his readers would be more familiar with that name. Nevertheless, it would be wrong to assume that bingo had been universally adopted as the new name for the game by 1952; throughout the 1950s the forces, holiday camps and ex-services clubs continued to use the name tombola or housey-housey. When Men at Arms was reissued as Sword of Honour in 1964 (that is the final version of the trilogy Men at Arms, Officers and Gentlemen, and Unconditional Surrender) the two pages describing the game were omitted, perhaps because by 1964, the game was irredeemably associated with the working classes in Evelyn Waugh’s view, and therefore had no place in literature that was not aimed at the masses. The masses certainly played the game during the Second World War, prizes of between £30 and £95 are described in memoirs of service life, and games with up to 500 players were a regular occurrence.[48] The game was also played widely by civilians engaged on war work, organised as a morale boosting activity, and on a smaller scale in pubs.

A History Of Bingo In The UK Part 3: 1945-1961: The Birth of Commercial Bingo

The third part of Carolyn Downs’ history of bingo and its development in the UK.

Author: Carolyn Downs

In Britain there had been no attempt to provide an impartial account of the impact and extent of gambling, which people actually gambled or their motivations until the 1949-1951 Royal Commission on Betting, Gaming and Lotteries. Even before the 1949-51 Royal Commission reported, the Mass Observation commented in 1947 that:

Ordinary working people showed more interest in gambling than politics…gambling, drinking and smoking… take the largest slice of our national budget.[49]

The government social survey of 1950 found that 80% of respondents had gambled and that 10-13% gambled at least weekly.[50] The results of the survey Betting in Britain helped to dispel some of the common misconceptions held by Parliamentarians and the public about gambling. Nevertheless, the widespread nature of gambling was something of a surprise to the members of the Royal Commission:

Of the population of sixteen and over 60% (71% of men and 51% of women) take part in one or other of the three forms of betting [included in the survey].[51]

The survey found that gambling was not generally a social problem, but rather that it was a social activity. One of the main conclusions of the survey was that, despite being largely illegal, ‘Betting in Britain today is an almost universal habit.’[52] It was in a climate of gambling as a leisure activity that was obviously socially acceptable that the Royal Commission (1949-51) investigated gambling in Britain, and recommended that changes be made to the law to allow regulation and taxation of a widespread and successful commercial enterprise. Before the Betting and Gaming Act (1960) allowed the development of commercial bingo two alterations to the law (Betting and Lotteries Act (1934) and the Small Lotteries and Gaming Act (1956), both private member’s Bills) had allowed housey-housey to be played for ‘the ostensible support of charities’, although it was widely accepted that, ‘Many evasions were perpetrated and substantial profits made’[53]

The difficulty of enforcing the law, coupled with the popularity of the game and the simplicity of organising the game all encouraged the development of regular games in many parts of the country, often accommodating several hundred players; this was in addition to the widespread seaside and funfair prize games. All that an organiser required was a sufficiently large venue, a supply of cards for players and a set of numbers 1-90 in some sort of container. The Catholic Church, which had no moral objections to gambling in moderation, used the game as a major fundraiser throughout the post-war period.

Catholic churches in urban areas were expanding rapidly as Irish men who had moved to the mainland in search of work rebuilding the bomb damaged infrastructure of Britain in the immediate aftermath of the Second World War were joined by their families in the 1950s.[54] The influx of Catholic families led to a requirement for funds to build an infrastructure of schools and social centres. Liverpool’s Catholic churches were running a number of lotteries and bingo games in order to raise funds towards the building of a cathedral. The link between the Catholic Church and bingo was so strong that some older players still attribute the origin of the game to the church:

Well, I think actually the Catholics started bingo. I’m almost sure they did, because we used to call it Tombola, and when I were a kid I remember all the churches used to have Tombola, but they did it with prizes, the first ones, and that was for the church funds then…And then it sort of clicked from there; then they started doing it for money. Gradually you found the bingo halls starting up all over, once they found it clicked.[55]

One interview conducted in 1993 was with a lady who had been playing for about 35 years (since the mid-fifties):

When I first went, years ago this was, it was a little Catholic club, just round the corner to me. One of my neighbours was going and I said to her one night: ‘I’ll come with you’, so we started going round there together. It used to cost us no more than a pound or so for the whole night out… I’ll never forget the night I played there and there were two numbers missing all night that were on my books all the way through, but they were never called out. So when we finished I went up to him and said, ‘Have you got 29 and 30 there?’, and he said, ‘Yeah’. So I said, ‘Do you realise they haven’t come out ALL NIGHT?’ ‘Oh yes they have’, he said. So I said, ‘Well, you prove it through my book’. There they were. He could see the only two numbers I’d needed all night, all through my book! And when he checked he’d left them in the bag…I know it’s a game of chance, but when they’re not even playing with your numbers, when they’re still in the bag, you don’t stand a chance, do you?[56]

The game also remained popular in ex-services and working men’s clubs. In one Huddersfield working men’s club they made a profit of £900 in 1959 from their bingo games.[57]

Although the game was attracting large numbers of players the real clue that commercial exploitation of the popular game was likely if the opportunity was offered was the adoption of bingo as an entertainment for the campers at Butlins and Warners holiday camps in the 1950s. It seems likely that tombola games were available in the holiday camps from 1949, as a Butlins press release of 1958 suggests that money had been raised through the playing of tombola for nine years:

There are many holiday camps in this country catering or many thousands of people. Among the amusements provided, especially on wet days, there is a game known as Tombola, or Housey-housey. The practice has been for many hundreds of people to take part in a single session of this harmless form of amusement.[58]

The game was clearly popular, whatever the weather, as timetables of the activities offered to campers holidaying at Butlins in the mid 1950s detail two Tombola sessions daily, each running for three hours.[59] Some observers were cynical about the motives of the holiday companies running the games:

The camps use it [Bingo]to keep the campers from wrecking their quarters or trying to seduce the redcoats during bad weather.[60]

As the playing of housey-housey could not be conducted for private profit, Butlins and Warners had to donate all of the considerable proceeds from the games to charity. In 1958 Butlins bingo players raised fifty thousand pounds.[61]

Legalising Gambling: Government Caught Out by Bingo

By the late 1950s it was clear that, no matter how many laws were passed, gambling had continued to expand, largely as part of commercial leisure provision. The continued commercial growth of bingo, whether in the black economy, the quasi-commercial regular charitable games, or as part of the organised entertainments at holiday camps, is indicative of the need being met by those providing the opportunity for the masses to indulge in a gamble on bingo. However, when the government proposed legalising gambling they were adamant that it would not be profitable to establish casinos or any other type of commercial gaming club under the new law. There were many assurances that the Betting and Gaming Act (1960) would only regularise such gaming as already took place, considered to be on middle-class games such as bridge and whist, which shows that British society in the late 1950s was one in which the ruling classes were almost entirely ignorant of the lives and lifestyles of the masses.[62]

The intention of the Betting and Gaming Act (1960) was to legitimise existing social gaming, considered by Parliament to be a small-scale activity, and to institute effective control of street betting, widely viewed as a social problem. In practice the new law was to instigate rapid growth in the amounts of leisure spending directed towards gambling activities.

Under the Betting and Gaming Bill as first published it was possible to ‘play housey-housey as an activity of a club if all the money staked is returned to the players.’[63] As the Betting and Gaming Bill also allowed there to be a charge for the right to take part in the game there was an obvious loophole soon noticed by the anti-gambling movement, seaside corporations and leisure entrepreneurs. The first hint that the legislation might unleash a gambling whirlwind was not long in coming. The Churches Council on Gambling worked through the draft Bill thoroughly and immediately noticed the potential it had for allowing casinos through the back door. In January 1960 the Churches Council on Gambling pointed out that:

It is conceivable that ‘clubs’ could be formed by enterprising people to promote gaming and that ‘the purposes of the controls of the Act would be bypassed.[64]

During the lengthy debates on this controversial legislation the government insisted, on many occasions, that it would not be profitable to run commercial gaming clubs, and the law was passed without the relevant section being amended. The new legislation came into effect on the 1st January 1961 and the first commercial bingo club opened on 3 January.[65] The floodgates were opened, and by 1963, there were 14,324,081 individual members of commercial bingo clubs.[66]

Bingo, Glamour and Moral Panic

When the first bingo clubs opened there were long waiting lists for membership and queues around the block waiting to play the game. There was a substantial moral panic about bingo leading to articles in the press and debates in parliament. During the early sixties the press created an image of ‘housewives who feed the housekeeping into fruit machines and the bingo maw.’[67] The extent of the moral panic can be judged from the number of speakers in an adjournment debate called by Mr John Taylor (Labour – West Lothian) on the matter. He was concerned about commercial bingo clubs that were being developed ‘on a massive scale’ and their effect on:

The small number of inveterate gamblers who have been gripped by the fever to such an extent that their families and their homes suffer. Just as there are chronic alcoholics, so I am told, there are chronic bingo addicts.[68]

Thus it was that the onset of commercial gambling on a national, and very visible, scale rapidly resulted in an angst-ridden debate about whether the British had suddenly become a nation of gamblers.

The move to legal gaming, and the immediate adoption of bingo in particular by mass leisure providers, led to the rapid development of a product that was organised to deliver a product (gambling) to a mass market. Companies spent money on market research and on introducing new technologies in order to produce efficiencies. The importance of economies of scale, a management tool that had radically altered the supply of food and equipment to the mass catering run in the Mecca ballrooms, were applied to gambling: and the emergence of chains with ever greater market share transformed an activity that had previously been small scale and local in nature into a national pastime:

The clubs formed by Mecca Limited and the Rank Organisation, each of which has premises, management, catering and capital to spare, lead the field…The problem of expensive establishments left idle during the day is solved; Bingo has come to succour them.[69]

The game increased rapidly in popularity, so that Mecca were using 50,000 books of bingo cards a week (five cards per book and sold at about two shillings per book) by the middle of February 1961, a mere six weeks after the change in the law allowed commercial bingo to be established. By June 1961 Mecca were selling 500,000 books per week; the average attendance at Mecca bingo games was 150,000 players a day. The Economist estimated that the gross profit to a promoter like Mecca might be £2m per annum.[70]

The first commercial clubs were called bingo casinos, and made every attempt to glamorise the game. Although they were not allowed to advertise they were easily able to obtain free publicity in the popular press and local papers. There were regular celebrity callers (Diana Dors charged £300 per game – cash, Cassius Clay visited three Mecca clubs in Liverpool, Lulu and Cilla Black, Max Bygraves and Tommy Steele; all were recruited by the clubs), with reporters allowed easy access to the stars while they were in the bingo club.[71] Well-timed press releases ensured maximum attendance when celebrities were present. There were also regular press releases detailing wins and interviews with big winners. Apart from cash prizes a range of glamorous prizes were on offer including holidays in the South of France, Mediterranean cruises, mink stoles, diamond brooches and necklaces and surprisingly in 1960s Britain, dishwashers.[72] In order to ensure that there were big winners every week the prizes were subsidised, with large link games (completely illegal) starting within weeks of the first clubs opening in January 1961.[73]

The Kinema, Mill Road, Cambridge was one of at least seven large bingo clubs in Cambridge by 1966. The manager Mr A Pink said, ‘I’ve never seen anything like it. We had 9,000 members in the first nine weeks’.[74] The national press reported bingo wins of £2,164 and £4,370 through the National Golden Scoop Club.[75] With such large prizes on offer it is not surprising that substantial amounts of money were being gambled on bingo. In 1966 in an account of bingo that expressed horror at the spread of gambling in Britain since 1961 it was reported that, ‘The amount we spend on bingo is equal to the whole national budget of Uganda.’[76] A 1966 Gallup poll found that 24% of respondents had played bingo at least once in the previous twelve months; this was at the height of the bingo boom.[77]

While the large, national and regional leisure chains rapidly adapted their portfolio of business interests to include bingo, with Mecca leading while Rank, Essoldo and ABC followed, smaller clubs were started in towns and cities across the country. In many seaside towns travellers and showmen moved from running stalls on fairgrounds to establishing cash bingo clubs.[78] Mr Frank Cooper (senior) resigned from Mecca and started a club in Louth in 1964. This club used to be an indoor gymnasium, and had loose seating of metal and canvas; in 1964 the entrance fee was 2/6. Mr Cooper’s son, Mervyn, remembered helping his father out:

Many of the players were elderly ladies. ‘The double gusset rows’ had the prime seats at the front of the hall and were a frightening sight to a thirteen year old calling to help his dad’s business.

The earliest commercial halls continued using the rhyming calls, to allow for the slow pace of the game before blowers increased the pace of calling. The calls were also maintained because people were familiar with them from prize bingo.[79] The introduction of blowers and the impact on players is described in an account of a game in July 1966:

The caller sat at a large transparent container in which numbered ping-pong balls jostled with each other before being pushed up a tube into his hand. He called out the numbers and illuminated counter-markings on a big display board at the back. This was impressive for its time. What used to be a simple family game for dark winter nights in an age before television, and as tombola had been the only gambling game allowed on the mess-decks of Royal Navy ships, had become the slickest, best-organised, most mentally-futile money trick ever devised by men.[80]

The use of the blower and balls was publicised by the bingo industry as a means of ensuring fairness in the game. It was claimed that callers could not beat the technology. Mervyn Cooper remembers that despite the claims of increased fairness once blowers were introduced it was easy for rogue operators to cheat punters, especially in the early days of commercial bingo. Techniques used included reinserting a ball easily and unobtrusively back into the blower or calling out a number different to that drawn. These strategies were used to speed up play, or more often, to ensure an accomplice in the crowd won the prize.[81]

A History Of Bingo In The UK Part 4: 1961-1968: The Golden Age Of Bingo

The fourth and final part of Carolyn Downs’ history of bingo and its development in the UK.

Author: Dr Carolyn Downs

The years between 1961 and 1968 have been called the golden years of bingo. The winds of change begun to blow with the election of a Labour government that wanted to take control of the problems commercial gaming had undoubtedly brought to Britain. As the Conservative government had not believed commercial gaming clubs could be started up under the Betting and Gaming Act (1960), they had not put in place any controls. As a result there was a lot of crime associated with gambling, and it was clear that action had to be taken. Even bingo halls were not immune to criminal activity: fruit machines in bingo clubs were ‘lumped’ so they would not pay out a jackpot, machines were forced onto clubs by organised crime gangs who demanded exorbitant ‘rental’ payments, and clubs were often bought by criminal gangs and used as a route for the laundering of money. This was easy as bingo books had no serial numbers and so there was no check on how many were sold, cash could be paid into a bank as bingo takings with no way of checking attendances, while as bingo winnings were not taxed it was also possible to claim money being banked had been won at bingo, when in fact it was the proceeds of crime. When the Labour government announced they were bringing forward new legislation to control commercial gaming they wanted to end commercial bingo.

The Labour party had roots in the Methodist church (which was anti-gambling on religious grounds) and the Fabien Society (which was anti-gambling on the grounds that it was not rational). Accordingly, many Labour MPs were in favour of very restrictive controls being imposed on gaming of any type, and that included bingo. James Callaghan was appointed Home Secretary as the new Gaming Bill progressed through the House of Commons and he was particularly opposed to bingo, and wanted to stop linked bingo entirely. Luckily the game had Eric Morley, who developed a lobbying and publicity strategy to save commercial bingo. Bingo casinos were rapidly re-branded as Social and Bingo Clubs, providing a service to the elderly and lonely, all elements of glamour were removed from press releases and there was a sudden emphasis on the neighbourly nature of the game. The government gave in and allowed commercial bingo to continue but won a victory of sorts over the industry.

The committee scrutinizing the Gaming Bill included a number of Conservative members and the Labour MP Mr Weitzman who were not happy with proposals that would end commercial bingo and who tried to save the large prizes common in linked bingo in the early 1960s. The government planned to limit prizes in linked games to £1000 per week and thought the restricting of such games would take the ‘go’ out of bingo. The committee considering the Gaming Bill issued a warning to the Home Office:

The fact is that linked bingo is being played and is enjoyed by millions of people… We ought to be very careful before we put a stop to something that seems to be enjoyed.[82]

There was certainly resentment amongst many Labour voters at the extent of the proposed limitations to the linked game of bingo. Mr Weitzman told the committee that he had visited a bingo club and:

I talked to a large number of people at the [bingo] club and they all resented the fact that there was the possibility that the Government might eliminate the larger game in which they were involved and which they enjoyed.[83]

Other committee members had also taken the opportunity to canvas opinion in bingo clubs in their constituencies and had found that opinion was against Government moves to limit the potential prize pool available. However, the traditional Socialist suspicion of commercialised leisure, especially an activity that appeared to offer something for nothing prevailed:

It has even been said by promoters of bingo that it is a social service. At the same time, there is a whipping up of opinion in the bingo halls generally in order to secure more and more pressure towards the legalising of bigger and bigger prizes. Linked bingo is spreading, and if this amendment is carried [to allow a maximum prize of £3000 per game], we may well end up with linked bingo on the scale of football pools… But I will say this. Many people now enjoy a form of linked bingo. This point has been made and it is valid…we do not want to appear as killjoys. If the Hon. Member is willing to withdraw the amendment I am willing to…give an undertaking that we should permit linked bingo up to £1000 total prize money in one week.[84]

During the debate on the report stage of the Gaming Bill, Elystan Morgan speaking for the Home Office pointed out to members wanting a £3000 prize limit for link bingo games that many concessions had been made to the bingo industry and players.[85] Other concessions included a reduction the waiting period for bingo club membership to 24 hours, postal as well as in-person applications for membership plus provision for ‘group’ membership allowing members of Mecca in Hammersmith to play at Mecca in Margate for example.[86] The Government also announced that they would:

Dispense with the absolute prohibition which was previously imposed on the practice by which proprietors enhanced the value of prizes from their own resources.[87]

£250 per week was to be allowed for the purpose of subsidising prizes. The Home Office insisted that a ban on the advertising of bingo was necessary, even though the activity might be legal, ‘In order to control the total level of demand and the total level of activity.’[88] Although the Government were defeated in committee on the grounds of hypocrisy – if something was legal then it was logical that it could be advertised, no ground was given by the Home Office.[89] The Home Secretary was adamant that the clause banning advertising, even time and place advertising, be reinserted. James Callaghan said that:

I take a special attitude to this. I believe that it is wrong for the House of Commons to encourage gaming. We may have to regulate it and try to straighten it out, but we should not encourage it by permitting advertising.’[90]

That the Home Office under James Callaghan was fundamentally opposed to commercial bingo is clear:

If the advertising ban is continued and if the linked bingo concession is limited to £1000, we can contain bingo.[91]

Had the Home Office prevailed and been able to push their first draft of the Gaming Bill through Parliament it seems likely that there would have been little or no profit left in commercial bingo. Commercial bingo survived the onslaught of the 1968 Gaming Act because the bingo industry organised a spirited and unified defence of its interests and succeeded in convincing enough Members of Parliament that it was an activity of a different order to casino gaming.


Overall, the Gaming Bill of 1968 imposed a powerful regime of controls upon a previously virtually unregulated industry. The Times felt that the provisions of the Bill had been improved during committee but they had:

Gravest doubts whether it has yet been strengthened sufficiently to achieve the Government’s objectives of “the most rigorous control” of commercial gaming in Britain.[92]

The new restrictions and a set of other regulations that were enforced by the Gaming Board of Great Britain led to the closure of a large number of independent halls and allowed Mecca and the other chains to dominate the market still further. The bingo clubs fared far better than the casinos that had rejected Eric Morley’s offer of help with their campaign against the new laws: before the change in the law there had been more than 1000 casinos in the UK, after 1968 there were just 121 casinos remaining.

The history of bingo, as it developed from popular numbers-games, through the armed services, fairgrounds and fund-raising, is an example of the durability of a pastime that has been much derided. The way in which bingo has become an integral part of British culture is seen through the adoption of its vocabulary into national language and metaphor. It is also clear that while playing bingo has very important social elements there appears to be a tendency amongst players, owners and some academics to overstate this element of the game. This in part may arise from an element of discomfort felt by players who feel that a gambling game cannot be properly constituted as a hobby. However, the emphasis on the importance of the social aspect of the game became far more prevalent during the passage of the Gaming Act (1968) when operators were desperate to limit the restrictions that the Government planned to apply to their lucrative business operation.

An element of continuity in popular, commercial culture is provided by the centrality of women to the pursuit of commercial bingo. It can be seen that women from all classes have been widely involved in gambling since at least the early eighteenth century. They enjoy the thrill of placing a bet, of waiting for their number to come up. Additionally, many saw the commercial potential of gambling and throughout history have used it as a means of earning an income. Gambling activities amongst women during many periods in history can be used as a tool to illustrate the degree of control that women were able to have over their own lives. For feminists to insist that bingo has been imposed upon powerless women by rapacious commercial interests flies in the face of the evidence. In the light of the evidence it is clear that bingo developed from a long tradition of numbers games played and run by women; leisure entrepreneurs in the 1960s met an existing demand; they did not create that demand.

Despite the success of the 1968 legislation in regulating gambling so that it was treated more as a leisure pursuit and less as deviant behaviour, the moral question remains. Does the legalisation of an activity considered immoral by sections of society grant that activity moral legitimacy? JM Keynes took the view that gambling performed a useful social function and that it should be:

Cheap, fair and frivolous, and on a small scale if its economic results are to be reduced to a minimum.[93]

Despite lingering moral uncertainties about the status of gambling, even in the minds of those who gamble, most gamblers recognise that their leisure pursuit is based on rationality:

The phenomenon of gambling is multi-faceted; an exciting leisure activity, a mundane form of consumption, a means of socialising with others, an opportunity to display skill [and a] hobby which offers the possibility of winning money.[94]

Money spent on leisure and pleasure never shows a return, except in the immeasurable; in bingo there is excitement, anticipation and at least the chance of a return.


[1] The Times 19 Dec. 1961, 1d Daily Mirror, 3 Jul. 1961, Daily Mirror, 18 Aug. 1961. Eric Morley was quoted in The Sun, 17 Apr. 1975.

[2] The Times 19 Dec. 1961, 9a, Sunday Mail, 2 Jul. 1961 and 20 Aug. 1961.

[3] Leading Article, The Times, 19 Dec. 1961, 9a.

[4]Malcolm, James Pellar, Anecdotes of the Manners and Customs of London during the Eighteenth Century: with a review of the state of society in 1807, London, 1810, quoted in Ashton, History of Gambling, p.27

[5]The Times, 19/3/1798 quoted in John Ashton, History of Gambling, (London, 1898) p.237. One sixteenth of the 20, 000 prize in the 1798 lottery was £1250. The value of this prize was considerable. £74,342.95 in the year 2001 has the same purchase power as £1250 in the year 1798. John J McCusker, ‘Comparing the Purchasing Power of Money in Great Britain from 1264 to Any Other Year Including the Present’ Economic History Services, 2001, http://eh.net/ehresources/howmuch/poundq.php.

[6] P.P. 1808/9 Sessional Papers, Select Committee on Laws Relating to Lotteries, Second Report mf 9.11-12 p.31.

[7] Newgate Calendar, 11 Aug. 1795, appendix xi accessed on http://www.exclassics.com/newgate/ngintro.htm.

[8] P.P. 1808/9, Sessional Papers, Select Committee on Laws Relating to Lotteries, Second Report mf 9.11-12 p. 53

[9] P.P. 1808/9, Sessional Papers, Select Committee on Laws Relating to Lotteries, Second Report mf 9.11-12 p. 53

[10] John Stephens, Incidents of Travel in the Yucatan, Volume One of Two, first published 1843, (New York, 1963), p.6.

[11] Stephens, Incidents, pp. 6-7

[12] Stephens, Incidents, p.8.

[13] I can find no records in the P.R.O to substantiate this claim but it is made by the M.O.D press office, (0870 607 4455), they cannot tell me on what source they base the statement.

The Street Betting Act (1906) made it illegal to place a bet with cash away from a racecourse. This meant richer people with access to a bank account could bet on credit with a bookmaker, increasingly placing bets by telephone, but poorer people without a bank account were breaking the law if they betted with cash. The law was totally ineffective and was repealed by the Betting and Gaming Act (1960)


Clapson, Bit of a Flutter, p. 96..

Clapson, Bit of a Flutter, p. 95.


Winter, Death’s Men, p.154.

Chinn, Better betting with a decent feller: betting, bookmaking and the British working class, 1750-1990, (Hemel Hempstead, 1991), p.171.


P.P. 1955-1956, dxlix Parliamentary Debates Hansard, James Chuter-Ede c. 2558.

Elizabeth Roberts Mr S4B ER RSC/88/579,578,618,655.

Elizabeth Roberts Mr S4B ER RSC/88/579,578,618,655.

E. Benson Perkins, Gambling in English Life, (London, 1950), p.24.

PRO Mepol 3/765

PRO Mepol 3/765 His previous fines were of £15 and £25.00 plus costs.

PRO Mepol 3/765 Statements of Woman Police Sergeant Stratton, William Collins and Woman Police Constable Cross.


PRO Mepol 3/765 Statements of Woman Police Sergeant Stratton and Woman Police Constable Cross.

PRO Mepol 3/765 Statements of Woman Police Sergeant Stratton and Woman Police Constable Cross.

PRO Mepol 3/765 Statements of Woman Police Sergeant Stratton and Woman Police Constable Cross.

PRO Mepol 3/765 Statement of Woman Police Sergeant Stratton

PRO Mepol 3/765 Statement of Woman Police Constable Cross.


P.P.1949-1951 Royal Commission on Betting, Lotteries and Gaming Cmd 8190, p.122.

P.P.1949-1951 Royal Commission on Betting, Lotteries and Gaming Cmd 8190.

Roger Bingham, Lost Resort, p.230, the gentlemen cited is now deceased.

Bingham, Lost Resort, p.230.

Lillian Beckwith, About My Father’s Business, (London, 1971), pp. 134-135.

Beckwith, My Father’s Business, pp. 135-136.

Mr. Mervyn Cooper of Skegness interviewed on 9/11/01./p>


Mr. Mervyn Cooper of Skegness interviewed on 9/11/01.

Ron Simmonds, A Minstrels Tale, published World Wide Web 2003 accessed on http://www.jazzprofessional.com/Minstrel/minstrel_p8.htm#.


Rowntree, Poverty and Progress, p. 400.

Rowntree, Poverty and Progress, p. 404.

Rowntree, Poverty and Progress, pp. 404-405.

P.P. 1959-1960 dcxxiii House of Commons Debates c. 222.

Harold J. Siddall, And So …An Autobiography accessed on http://www.naval-history.net/WW2MemoirAndSo03.htm

David Cliffe A Companion to Evelyn Waugh’s Sword of Honour, http://www.abbotshill.freeserve.co.uk/index.html


Evelyn Waugh Men at Arms, (London, 1952), pp. 121 – 123.

PRO ME POL 3/765

Robert Angell, The Long Voyage of the Ship Pasteur, (2001) (Link now dead), Tom Barker, Memories of Private Tom Barker29822521st Bn Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders.

Letter Home to United States written from RAF Cranwell, Lincolnshire in England at the CTC Royal Air Force No. 1 Radio School December 14, 1941 (Link now dead), Harry Franz MBE, Bamboo Treadmill, http://users.argonet.co.uk/users/ynnad/book.htm


Bill Williamson, The Temper of the Times: British Society since World War Two, (Oxford, 1990), p.78.

A. M. Carr-Saunders, A Survey of Social Conditions in England and Wales, (Oxford, 1958), p. 147.


W.F.F Kemsley, & D.Ginsburg, Betting in Britain 1949-1950, (London, 1951), p. 6.

Kemsley, & Ginsburg, Betting in Britain, p.1.


Economist, 24th June 1961 p.1347

John Hickey, Urban Catholics: Urban Catholicism in England and Wales from 1829 to the present day, (London, 1967), p.33

Dixey with Talbot, Women Leisure and Bingo, p.82.

Gilda O’Neill, A Night Out With the Girls: women having a good time, (London, 1993), pp. 60 – 61.

The Times Law Reports Payne and Others vs. Bradley 17 Feb. 1961 22d.

P.P. 1959-1960 Standing Committee D Betting and Gaming Bill c.1149.

Pwllheli camp, Monday 29th August 1955.


Economist, ‘A Most Contagious Game’, 24 June 1961, pp. 1346-1347, p.1346

P.P. 1959-1960 dcxxiii House of Commons Debate William Rees-Davis, col. 225.

The Times, 18 Apr. 1956 7c leading article.

P.P. 1959-1960 HC Bill [7]Betting and Gaming Bill p. 27.

Gordon Moody, The Times, 14 Jan. 1960 13g.

Economist, 24 June 1961, ‘A Most Contagious Game’ pp 1346-1347, p.1346.

P.P. 1962-1963 Report on Enquiry into Gaming Under Section 2 of the Finance Act, CMND 2275 p. 6. This was the first attempt to establish the number of members of commercial bingo clubs. There is no way of checking membership claims or playing statistics made for 1961 and 1962 by the providers of commercial bingo and reported in the press, they have to be taken on trust and compared with the turnover figures collated by the Churches Council on Gambling who were the only national organisation collecting information about gambling. This figure is only part of a larger total as the Government of the day made no attempt to calculate how many games of bingo members were playing at pre-existing CIU clubs and other such institutes, nor as fund raising activities in other situations, although the Treasury were aware that this too was a growth area of gaming.

The Times, 21 September 1966 8a.

The Times, 21st July 1961, p.6 column g Parliamentary Reports.

Economist, 24 June 1961, ‘A Most Contagious Game’ pp1346-1347 p.1346.

Economist, 24 June 1961, A Most Contagious Game pp1346-1347 p.1347.


‘Who Got Diana Dors Millions?’ Channel 4 http://www.channel4.com/culture/microsites/D/diana_dors/ Dance and Bingo News, 15 Jul 1966, 5 Aug 1966, 31 May 1967.

Dance and Bingo News 18th February 1966, 25th February 1966, July 1st 1966, August 5th 1966.


Morecambe Visitor, 14th August 1963 Front Page. Mike Petty, Secret Society (archive feature), Cambridge News, 16 January 2002, (Link now dead)

Mike Petty, Secret Society (archive feature), Cambridge News, 16 January 2002, (Link now dead).

Mike Petty, Secret Society (archive feature), Cambridge News, 16 January 2002, (Link now dead)

Nova Magazine, August 1966, p.17

Otto Newman, i, (London, 1972), p.68.


Interview with M. Cooper

Interview with M. Cooper

Mike Petty ‘Secret society’ Cambridge News, Wednesday, January 16, 2002, July 1966. (Link now dead)

Interview with Mervyn Cooper

P.P. 1967-1968 iii House of Commons Official Report Standing Committee B Sir Stephen McAdden, c.194.


P.P. 1967-1968 iii House of Commons Official Report Standing Committee B, Mr Weitzman, c.186.

P.P. 1967-1968 iii House of Commons Official Report Standing Committee B, Mr Dick Taverne, c. 206

The Times, 12th June 1968 p.28 column f

P.P. 1967-1968 iii House of Commons Official Report Standing Committee B, Mr Dick Taverne, c. 220.

P.P. 1967-1968 iii House of Commons Official Report Standing Committee B, Mr Dick Taverne, c. 220.


P.P. 1967-1968 iii House of Commons Official Report Standing Committee B, Mr Dick Taverne, c. 482

P.P. 1967-1968 dcclviii Hansard House of Commons Debates (2/4/68) c. 485.


The Times, 12th June 1968 p.28 column f

P.P. 1967-1968 iii House of Commons Official Report Standing Committee B, Mr Dick Taverne, c. 207

The Times, 5th Jun. 1968 9a Leading Article.

Munting, A Social and Economic History of Gambling in Britain and the USA, (Manchester,1996), p.35.

Reith, Age of Chance, p. 126

To cite this article: Carolyn Downs, A Brief History of Bingo, September 2008, viewed on https://playingbingo.co.uk/land-bingo/history/01-history-3.php


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