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Exploring the Legendary Place of British Arcades by the Seaside 

The beloved British seaside experience hasn’t needed to change much over the decades. Fish and chips remain a pinnacle of cuisine; people love putting up multi-coloured windbreakers; there’ll be something to do at the end of the pier, and you’ll be able to hear the jangly noises of the arcades. 

A staple of the experience, these iconic venues offer low-cost fun, the chance to grab some great prizes, and usually a bunch of arcade games, too. They’ve been so successful in the UK, in fact, that similar offerings have spread to the far reaches of the map. So, let’s explore the classic British arcade and its place by the seaside. 

Inspiring arcades around the world


The British arcade holds its origins in the old travelling fairs from the Medieval period that would tour Britain to entertain the masses. Eventually, thanks to the tremendous appeal of the coastline for tourism, the entertainers found it viable to settle down by the seaside and offer fun all year around. 

Perhaps the most influential creation to come from the rise of arcades was the somewhat soft form of gambling in coin-operated machines, which hails from the 1964 coin pusher, Penny Falls. From Britain, these coin machines spread across Europe, and helped to kick off the similarly-styled seaside arcades of North America, and as far east as Japan. 

The industry boasts a long history, as reported by Stroud Times, that very much embodies Britishness. This was all before pixels and video machines came into the equation, but these were certainly embraced for the better, too. 

A tent pole of British tourism, the arcades would always be popular in the high seasons, but in the 1970s and 1980s, the arrival of video arcade machines vaulted the industry to a new level. As the Financial Times details, the likes of Pac-Man and Space Invaders made British arcades the go-to venues to revel in this new tech. 

Accessible games for the public

The gaming scene – particularly that of gambling – in the UK has transformed tremendously over the last few decades. Fully-fledged, resort-style casino venues never became widespread despite the popularity of some casinos dotted mostly around the capital. Some piers also featured a casino out to sea, and the UK’s first was opened in Port Talbot. 

Even now, the main way to play Vegas-style slots and table games is online. As BonusFinder UK lists, the top 50 online casinos in the country offer a whole host of bonuses and hundreds, even thousands, of real-money games. Yet, even with these convenient platforms, the low-stakes gambling of arcades remains. 

Having been established for so long, the kind of gambling that comes with low-bet slot machines, coin pushers, and claw machines is simply a part of the fun. You’d be hard-pressed to find someone who considers the games at a British arcade to amount to proper gambling and especially not the kind that everyone can’t enjoy. 

Still, there has always been a clear divide between arcades and casinos. In the US, that line was blurred when the seaside tourist hub of Atlantic City went all-in on casinos – which didn’t go so well in the end. Blackpool wanted something similar when the 2007 government was handing out a ticket to build a super casino, but that didn’t pan out either. 

British arcades have upheld their claim as a staple of the seaside experience by sticking to incredibly accessible and bight-lit entertainment.