Eyes down for the modern face of bingo

Beacon Bingo: Northampton.
Beacon Bingo: Northampton.

If anyone wonders why the streets of Northampton are quiet on certain nights of the week then the truth is locals are probably at Beacon Bingo trying their hand at winning the latest cash prize. As many as 5,000 people each week visit Beacon Bingo, a venue which next week celebrates its 22-year anniversary.

And, according to general manager Steve Power, today’s bingo halls now attract a mixture of ages. Long gone are the days when bingo was simply known as entertainment for the over 80s.

He said: “I have been here for nine months but have worked in bingo since I was 18 and the audience has got a lot younger. A lot of people think it is an old people’s pastime, but there are plenty of youngsters and middle-aged people doing it.

“We do try harder to get people in, we do promotions that appeal to families; it is not rare to see mum, daughter and grandmother here together.”

Visiting with my mum this week, I could see the appeal. I played the electronic, touch screen game which checks the correct numbers and automatically tells you how many more numbers you need to get a full house or a complete line. Mum used the old-fashioned method of paper and pen, which she quite enjoyed. Although we walked away empty handed (although I came close to winning), I spoke to other visitors who had been more successful.

Friends Ann Millican, aged 67 from Moulton and Sandra Jackson, aged 64 from Kingsthorpe, regularly attend and share their winnings. Their biggest win was £1,500 three years ago, when the pair enjoyed a trip to Las Vegas, a stay in a swanky hotel and a night out seeing Rod Stewart in concert.

But not everyone has the same luck. Tim Smith, aged 62, from Bugbrooke, simply enjoys the social aspect due to a run of bad luck on the winning side of things.

He said: “I don’t enjoy winning because I never win. In 22 years I only once had half a share of £100 but I don’t come regularly. It is an evening out for me rather than an opportunity to win money, I have actually been here on New Year’s Eve and it was a great night out.”

Beacon Bingo’s anniversary will be marked by a host of special events including two weeks (starting tomorrow) of free draws on Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights, and Saturday afternoons. Bigger cash totals will be on offer as well as prize giveaways. A Take That tribute act will also be performing from 6.15pm on Saturday, October 12.