Bingo Capitalism: the Law and Political Economy of Everyday Gambling

Kate Bedford


£80, OUP


Why bother with bingo? This book tackles that question in its opening chapter, asserting that bingo provides an interesting entry point to a legal and economic analysis of gambling. This is in contrast to other studies which so often concentrate on the supposedly more glamorous world of casinos. The author, a professor of law, also points out that bingo players are mainly female, so a different perspective can be offered by looking at bingo as opposed to other forms of gambling that have more male participants. 

Bedford offers an historical look at the regulation of bingo in the UK, highlights of which are a comparison of the Thatcher government’s attitude to bingo compared with other ‘failing’ industries such as coal and steel; and an analysis of how the Blair government’s attempts to liberalise gambling perversely led to increased regulation of some forms of bingo.

While this is an academic text, it provides plenty of entertainment. There are choice quotes from Hansard showing the views of various politicians towards bingo over the years. And when the author goes ‘into the field’ there are accounts of trips to bingo halls that would fit comfortably into a Bill Bryson travelogue. But the text does not flinch from looking at the risks of addiction, while also exploring the benefits that a local bingo hall can provide, particularly for the elderly. The evolution of online bingo is also considered in detail.

This is an unashamedly niche study. It is not a textbook on the law of bingo, so may have limited practical use for lawyers. But it does provide a thought-provoking look at what bingo can tell us about political attitudes to class, gender and community.


Lee Wall is a solicitor with Irvings Law in Liverpool