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BINGO SENSATION

It’s a multi-million pound industry and Eastleigh’s Mike Barnes is bidding to grow to be the finest in the business enterprise.

Inside Out welcomes you to the wonderful world of Bingo.

Eastleigh-based Mike Barnes is bidding to become the South’s best Bingo caller.

The 23 year-old was runner-up at the 2002 regional final from the National Bingo Caller from the Yr competitors.

This 12 months, the comedic, ghost-hunting, Star Trek fan intends to go one greater. He would like to be crowned the South’s Bingo Caller with the 12 months.

The contest

The competition is dependent on two disciplines – an interview involving 3 questions – and a five minute routine with the crowd which includes calling a game.

Victory means qualification for the national final. The winner of the national crown will win £500 prize cash, a flight to LA, the honour of calling a game of bingo in Las Vegas and also the role of Britain’s Bingo ambassador for a 12 months!

Mike says, “I’m nervous. Not as nervous as last 12 months. I just want to obtain the mic in my hand. When I’m on stage, I’m fine.”

Fans

Mike has a legion of fans in Eastleigh, who are desperate for him to steal glory in this competitors.

Mike’s mum Jill, his greatest fan, says, “He’s an extrovert in a costume – any sort of costume. He does items in his Star Trek uniform.

“He is usually a incredibly quiet and shy retiring young man when he is not dressed up. But give him his Bingo factors along with a mic and he’s away.”

A coach load of fans will travel to Reading with their larger-than-life hero as he takes on 5 other hopefuls. These include Brighton’s Billy McLeod and Bognor’s Bret Hyjrak.

Mike says, “I prefer to hang out with old people. They know a lot more. They tend to become additional intellectual.”

Fun and games

Mike works full time being a bingo caller, at a Bingo Hall in Eastleigh.

Despite his success in last year’s competition and hoards of fans, issues don’t always run smoothly.

Mike talks about his most embarrassing moment being a bingo caller, “It would be the time my boss came to me and stated, ‘we’re doing a Father’s Day promotion and it’s for a date with a Page Three Girl’. Then he mentioned ‘Mike, I want you to become the Page 3 girl’.”

Major organization

Bingo is major business. In Britain alone, it’s worth an estimated £1.5 billion.

Over three million people regularly play in Britain’s 699 licensed and operating bingo clubs. Seventy percent of these players are women.

Bingo’s large cash prizes are a huge draw. An estimated £52 million was paid out in prize income during 2002. The greatest ever win was on December 22 2002 when Paula Young from Sheffield scooped £956,000.

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