Underground Rebel Bingo Club is the name of a new bingo organization in West London. Bingo has long been popular in the UK, but this new club adds a twist to the classic church fundraiser. With the addition of music and alcohol, Rebel Bingo is as much of a dance club as it is a bingo hall, and it’s attracting a much younger crowd than the traditional bingo establishments.
The club was founded by Freddie Sorensen and James Gordon, who became enchanted by the game after they found bingo equipment in the basement of a small, disused church. They started playing casual games with their friends, putting more emphasis on having fun than on winning prizes. After the games, everybody would move upstairs into the main area of the abandoned church for an ‘after-party’. Word spread about the parties, and the club started getting more and more popular.
Sorenson and Gordon eventually decided to combine the bingo with the party, and it was a big hit. Today, the club sees as many as 1,000 guests in an evening. After paying a £15 entry fee, participants grab their cards in one hand and a drink in another, then move around the venue enjoying music as the games progress. It is a late-night event, and the games don’t begin until 9:30 pm.
This new way of playing is beginning to catch on. Mecca Bingo, which runs land-based clubs as well as online bingo games in the UK, recently began offering their own late games called After Dark Bin-glo. The games are much milder form of the wild entertainment that Rebel offers. Mecca hopes the new style will bring in a younger crowd, especially one that enjoys a drink now and then.
“It is designed to be a bit of fun, but obviously there is the incremental income we want to make as well. The idea is to get people to drink a lot more,” says Kieran Simmonds, general manager at Mecca Bingo.
Innovation like this is important for bingo clubs right now. The industry was hit hard by the smoking ban a few years back, which drove many of their clients away. They also face tough competition from internet bingo in the UK. It will take a lot more than that, however, to douse the UK’s fascination with Bingo.