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Bingo is one of the oldest forms of group gaming. With bingo sites like Jackpotjoy offering a huge selection of games – along with an interactive chat function – it’s translated beautifully into an increasingly online world. Jackpotjoy allows you to communicate with other players in real time, whilst providing low-stakes fun that anyone can play.
The success of Jackpotjoy – and others - goes some way to demonstrating just how wide-reaching the game’s influence is. And the simplicity of the game certainly accounts for a lot of its popularity. But if you want to really understand its appeal, nothing beats hearing the stories of die-hard bingo fans, from the casual Jackpotjoy web surfer, to the blue-rinse brigade of the 20th Century.
Which is where film-maker John Jeffcoat comes in. His 2005 documentary (called simply ‘Bingo’) takes an in-depth look at the history and evolution of the game, from its ancient roots, right up to the ultra-modern incarnation found at Jackpotjoy and elsewhere on the internet.
The movie clocks in at just under an hour, but manages to pack in a wealth of information on this most humble of pursuits. We learn how bingo evolved in America from the game of ‘Beano’. We look at the origins of some of the bizarre and wonderful terminology associated with bingo and all its variations. And most interestingly, we hear personal tales from self-confessed bingo fanatics.
For the lazy reader, watching this film certainly beats genning up on the history of the game by reading the many and varied accounts available on the web. Nonetheless, the film falls down in its study of the modern incarnation of the game. Granted, it was made in 2005, when online bingo was just on the cusp of a boom, with many of the bigger sites like Jackpotjoy still in their infancy.
That minor complaint aside, you can but marvel at Jeffcoats’ unbridled devotion to the game (he’s a self-confessed fan since the age of 7). He travels far and wide, to Seattle, New York, Texas, England, Ireland, Scotland and the Caribbean. He uncovers the world of the Bingoholic. The obsession. The good luck charms and superstition. And the most interesting aspect of the game: that bingo managed to pull off a remarkable sleight-of-hand by being the only form of gambling condoned by – and often played in – the church.
But the most gripping part of the film is an in-depth study of a recovering drug addict and alcoholic who managed to bid goodbye to his old addictions, only to replace them with a new one. He now works as a janitor at the local bingo hall, which acts as a new, healthier subculture in which he can immerse himself. Insightful and engaging, his story forms the heart of the whole movie.
Elsewhere, Jeffcoat interviews a bona fide professor of bingo to discover its positive effect on aging brains, which gives a fascinating perspective on the appeal of bingo to older generations. We also tag along on a bingo-cruise, and discover some of the newer, hipper bingo venues out there, such as charity bingo events held by New York’s drag queen community.
The entire film is underscored with a cutesy accordion soundtrack, which fulfills its assumed intention of portraying the entire culture as the harmless trivia it undoubtedly is. What ‘Bingo’ lacks in serious social commentary, it makes up for in light-hearted anecdotes from dyed-in-the-wool fanatics. As an appendix to the film, you only need explore some of the modern web-based purveyors such as Jackpotjoy. Visit Jackpotjoy and you’ll discover the logical – and technological – extension of this ages-old pastime. Well worth a look.
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