Bingo! The Documentary – A Retro Review

Bingo is back. After a time in the shadows the lottery-like game has re-emerged as one of the most popular pastimes on the planet. It is not played as much in brick-and-mortar locations as it once was, but the internet bingo revolution is in full swing and more people are playing each year. With the game being loved by so many once more, one would expect references to it to occur much more often across other media. There have been some great bingo clips as seen on in TV and film over the years, but few films have actually been dedicated to the gambling game. Bingo! The Documentary is one of the few bingo specials out there, and it was released when the game was at its pre-internet peak.

Bingo in the 1990s
Bingo was all the rage in the 1990s, with towns like Cheektowaga, New York, having one bingo hall per 6,800 residents. During the last decade of the old millennium, massive bingo chains were well established and it had become a huge business. Bingo! The Documentary was released in 1999 and took an endearing look at everything to do with bingo along with the influences the game had elsewhere. Bingo can seem mundane to people who aren’t involved with it, and according to, filmmaker John Jeffcoat wanted to show the average viewer how interesting it was.

The documentary came out just before the rise of internet poker in the 2000s. Nowadays, players can easily find bingo games online using review sites like, where the best bingo sites are sorted by player ratings and the editor’s choice. The fact that these review sites exist highlights just how many options there are across the internet for players to choose from. In 1999, this level of bingo play was completely unprecedented, and the only way to play at that time was at a bingo hall.

Bingo: A Social Affair
Bingo! The Documentary manages to capture the magical, social atmosphere which was one of the main reasons why players went back to play at the same halls time and time again. Online bingo sites have attempted to recreate this buzz with chat rooms and bingo hosts, but many would argue that the experience at the original brick-and-mortar bingo halls is unparalleled. Jeffcoat’s picture explores bingo in a number of different locations, showing the effect it has had on communities and why bingo halls became treasured hotspots in towns and cities all over the world. There are various locations in the USA, as well as some in Great Britain and Ireland. The film most certainly wouldn’t appeal to everyone, but those who enjoy bingo or well-made documentaries would like it.

With Bingo! The Documentary now 20 years old, it would be intriguing for Jeffcoat to revisit it and create a sequel based on the current state of affairs in the industry. With bingo now played by many people online and in live bingo halls, a reflection on how each sector has affected the other could be interesting to see. 

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