Wigan Casino was a renowned nightclub located in Wigan, England that operated from 1973 to 1981. It gained fame as a top destination for Northern soul music, building upon the legacy of other popular clubs such as Manchester’s Twisted Wheel, Wolverhampton’s Catacombs, Stoke-on-Trent’s Golden Torch, and Droitwich’s Chateau Impney. To this day, it remains one of the most iconic clubs in Northern England, having been voted allegedly as “The Best Disco in the World” by the American music magazine Billboard in 1978, surpassing New York City’s Studio 54. However, there is no concrete evidence to prove that this award was ever officially announced.

In 1977, the TV documentary “This England” was produced about Wigan Casino, and a book about the club’s history called “Soul Survivors: The Wigan Casino Story” was authored by Russ Winstanley and Dave Nowell in 1996. The club’s influence was also captured in a stage play called “Once upon a time in Wigan” by Mick Martin, which premiered in February 2003 at the Contact Theatre in Manchester and toured the country.

Wigan Casino was formerly known as the Empress, which was the final iteration of a Wigan ballroom. The club’s all-nighters were the brainchild of local DJs Brian Rigby and Alan Cain, who approached lease owner Gerry Marshall. Venue manager Mike Walker then invited Russ Winstanley, a DJ who had previously performed at the local rugby club, to join the Casino. On September 23, 1973, Winstanley started the first-ever Northern soul all-nighter at Wigan Casino at 2 am on a Sunday, with Ian Fishwick assisting him. Kev Roberts became the third DJ at Casino all-nighters, quickly followed by Richard Searling. The club hosted performances by Northern soul legends such as Jackie Wilson, Edwin Starr, and Junior Walker.

Young people from all over the UK flocked to Wigan Casino to hear the latest Northern soul artists and dance. There were often long queues to get in, and the second dance floor, Mr M’s, played oldies songs until 6 am from various DJs, including Dave Evison and Steve Whittle. The all-nighters typically ended with the “3 before 8” tradition, where three specific songs, “Time Will Pass You By” by Tobi Legend, “Long After Tonight Is All Over” by Jimmy Radcliffe, and “I’m on My Way” by Dean Parrish, were played.

Wigan Casino’s 500th all-nighter was held on May 16, 1981, from midnight to 8 am. During its eight-year run, the club purportedly welcomed over one million visitors. However, Wigan Council, which owned the building, planned to expand the nearby Civic Centre but lacked funding to do so, leading to the club’s closure on December 6, 1981. Winstanley DJ’d the final night of Wigan Casino in its Northern soul state, and the “3 before 8″ songs were played three times in a row to a crowd that refused to leave. To break the spell, Winstanley randomly picked a 7” from his box and played Frank Wilson’s “Do I Love You (Indeed I Do),” which became one of the most iconic Northern soul songs ever.

Today, annual reunions of Wigan Casino regulars are held in Wigan and Blackpool and hosted by original DJs. A Blue plaque commemorates the club’s legacy, installed in 2014, marking the site where its doors once stood.