Bingo Halls Good For Community Revitalization Says Retail Expert

In Great Britain bingo is more than a game and has become a beloved British institution. In the not so distant past hugs garish bingo halls operated throughout the country. Even the smallest hamlet had its own High Street bingo hall. More UK residents attend bingo games than go to premiere league football matches or attend the cinema. Throughout the country bingo halls provided residents with the opportunity for inexpensive entertainment and socialization. Many people still view bingo as a pastime for the elderly and pensioners but the demographics of bingo have changed during the past decade.

The game’s popularity has not prevented many bingo halls from closing. In Preston the Gala bingo hall will close its doors in February 2012 and 22 jobs will be lost. The operators blame ‘difficult trading conditions’ for the closure. Since 2006 the UK has lost 76 bingo clubs including 12 that closed this year. If the game is so popular then why are bingo halls closing? A spokesman for the Bingo Association told reporters that bingo is “most highly taxed form of gambling in the UK” and that the tax rate for other forms of gambling, including online bingo, is 15%. The unnamed spokesman went on to say “This seems grossly unfair, particularly bearing in mind it’s a very safe form of gambling. They’re taxing it in such a way it limps along in a disadvantaged state, in comparison to other parts of the gambling sector.”

Local licensing fees have also taken their toll. Recently the government gave individual towns and cities the right to set their own licensing fees. In many cases fees tripled and even quadrupled. Even worse the government imposed higher taxes on electronic slot games and fruit machines and some bingo halls earn 70% of their total revenues from the popular gaming machines. Machines are taxed individually and several bingo halls have hundreds of slot machines. Recently Mary Portas, one of London’s leading retail experts, said that bingo halls are a good way to kick start community regeneration.

Paul Talboys, chief executive of the Bingo Association, stated “We very much welcome Mary Portas’ endorsement of bingo as a brilliant way to bring people together. Some may wonder about Mary’s reference to bingo as a possible means of re-building communities and increasing social interaction, however, as many bingo players will testify, this is very much on target. Talboys went on to point out the importance of bingo halls to local communities and told reporters “Bingo has long been, and continues to be, a bedrock of many communities across the UK, providing both a social centre and community, that is open to all.”

Competition from online bingo has been a double edged sword. After the smoking ban many players switched to online bingo. Online bingo has attracted young players and many of these players have developed an interest in live bingo games as a source of entertainment. Hopefully the new generation of bingo players will ensure thwe survival of the game for years to come.

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