Another UK Bingo Hall Bites the Dust

Every bingo player in Britain knows that ‘eyes down’ means a game is about to begin. Another bingo hall in Britain has called eyes down for the last time. For the last five or six years several UK bingo halls have fallen victim to the national smoking ban that almost destroyed the British live bingo industry and extremely high tax rates and local licensing fees. Pavilion Bingo in Roose Road, Barrow, said it was closing because of “difficult trading conditions.” Malcolm Fleming, who managed the hall along with his wife Carol for eleven years, made the sad announcement to customers last week.

Fleming told reporters from the Evening Mail: “The way things are with the leisure industry, we decided we couldn’t go on any longer and had to close down.” Fleming said he did not want to disclose more details about the closing than what he told customers when he made the announcement last Sunday. Fleming told players at that time “Due to difficult trading conditions, the Pavilion Bingo is no longer a viable business and we are left with no alternative but to close it down.” Fleming also praised his employees and stated “We would like to thank our superb staff and very loyal customers for their great support in the past but under the present economic conditions, this is the only route we can take.”

Fourteen jobs will be lost and both full and part time employees will be affected by the closure. National figures show that 34 bingo halls closed in 2007, (the same year the smoking ban went into effect) 25 in 2008, 29 in 2009, 12 in 2010 and 12 last in 2011. A spokesman for the Bingo Association told reporters about the difficulties facing live bingo halls in the UK. The spokesman told reporters “The rate of closure has slowed down in the last five years, but it’s proved increasingly difficult for those that remain in the industry to move forward with their business. Lots of people want to relate it to the smoking ban, but the primary driver is a tax regime which is punitive for the bingo industry. It’s about the most highly taxed gambling activity in the UK.”

The spokesman pointed out that bingo clubs pay a 21% tax while other forms of gaming pay a 15% tax. While British bingo halls continue to close in record numbers the online bingo industry is thriving. There are now about three million online bingo players in the UK and the number is growing thanks to the addition of mobile bingo played on smart phones. While there has been a slight increase in attendance at urban bingo halls in large cities smaller towns are losing their bingo halls at an alarming rate. Fortunately some members of Parliament have promised to address the taxation issue.

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