You have to be a member in order to participate in the game. So you fill out some forms and if you are relatively young, show some form of I.D to prove your age.
As you enter the you get your membercard swiped by a member of staff at a machine (this young girl kindly let me take her picture at her post at work):
Then I proceeded to a separate desk, to where they issue the bingo books:
Or Bingo boards, which cost more than the paper books, but are more eco-friendly as they run of re-chargeable batteries and saves wasting paper (which I think is a very good design idea):
With this piece of machinery, all you do is tap at the screen everytime a number is called and when you are only waiting on one number the machine will make a "beeping" noise to alert you. This I think tends to make the player more aware of how close they are to winning in comparison to players that are playing with books.
A car park is located right outside of the premises, which is good for players with their own means of transportation as it won't put them off coming as they don't have to walk a long distance to get to and from their car.
Whilst the bingo caller is shouting out the numbers through the microphone, they are constantly looking at a screen upon which the numbers are shown upon. Also the bingo callers sound rather monotonous. They also say the numbers in a particular way. For example if they were to say the number twenty one they would call out, " two and one, twenty one". They do this for all the numbers. It got me to thinking, maybe they could get a recorded voice to do that job? But then maybe the players like the personal touch of a person calling out the numbers? Maybe a robotic voice would make it a different experience.
Whilst playing the bingo books, you need a pen or some sort of writing implement in order to "tick off" or "cross out" the numbers that have been called. You can purchase bingo pens in a vending machine right outside the main hall:
In these vending machines in contains what most of your steriotypical vending machines contain the two C's, crisps and chocolate. But this vending maching, is one with a difference, for a pound you can purchase a pen that is especially designed for marking off the bingo numbers. And I am lead to believe that the regulars call this a "dabber".
Before the main session of bingo starts and at intervals there is another type of bingo that goes on and it is known as table top bingo. It is situated at your seat, making it very tempting to all gamblers as there is a slot just beside it for inserting your money. However you are usually playing for less money that you would during the main session bingo:
At the top here you can see a red number lit up. This is the number which is getting called out. This is lit up during both the table top games and the main session bingo. It is a good idea to look at this incase the bingo caller accidently shouts the wrong number or you do not quite hear what number they said. If you needed pound coins to enable you to play this the etiquette was to sit at your seat whilst holding note(s) in the air and the staff came to you. Not everyone plays the table top bingo but those that do are very quiet and concentrated:
The fact that you see the numbers lit up makes me re-think my early thought about replacing the bingo caller with a machine, I do not think this would be a good idea as it seems although you can see the numbers being lit up, I think people enjoy the human interaction they get whilst at the bingo.
I noticed that the staff were very friendly, casual, easy to approach, which made it a relaxed atmosphere when not in play. When in play, people adapted a very serious attitude and no one dared to speak. I think if anyone did it would be seriously frowned upon by other players.
Whilst playing the main session bingo if you watch the chandiliers above the bingo caller they have lights shining upon them and the colour of the lights change depending on what the colour of the game you are playing is.
Before the start of the main session they explain the order of which your books have to be in, but they do not explain how to actually play bingo, for that you have to observe and "follow the crowd".
Whilst observing my surroundings I noticed that the probably around 90% of the bingo players are around forty plus, however the gender ratio was around half and half, which surprised me as I thought there would be alot more women that men. Also I would say that from what I seen that most of the people do not seem very concerned about keeping up-to-date with the latest "trends" to them clothing seems to be all about comfort.
At the end of each bingo table there was a couple of plastic bags for putting your rubbish in, which mostly the bag contained the paper of your bingo books. I think this is a good initiative if they intend to recycle the books.
At the interval I sat and I people watched. I noticed that people took their coats and their bags but left other belongings as they went to engage in numerous activites such as smoking, going to the toilet, going to get food or chancing their luck at the slot machines positioned outside the main hall:
It is definitely an on-going gambling enviroment, it seemed everywhere I looked there was an oportunity to dabble with Lady Luck. Left on the tables at break, unattended sometimes, were bingo pens and books ready and waiting for the next game to start. Not all people vacate the hall whilst the interval is in session. Some stay and simply chat with their neighbour or engage in the table top bingo.
When people "shout" when they win there is some disapproving murmering and tutting as some people are close to winning as the may have been waiting on one number but have just missed out and they seem frustrated or annoyed that it wasnt them. Bingo is alot more competitive in some ways than I had previously thought.
Flashing notices on the Big screen at the end of the hall lets people aware of what deals are on offer, things such as Tuesday night's are the cheepest time to go, but because its the cheep night more people tend to go which will make your chances of winnning slimmer. They also have other offers for example if you go on a Sunday afternoon, you get your lunch for free with the purchase of your books.By the end of the evening my mother had won twice, once she won twenty pounds and the other time she won ten pounds. Myself, however, won only the once but it was for forty pounds. I was rather chuffed to say the least, I think it is fair to say that it has been one of my most profitable assigments yet.