Canadian Bingo is in Trouble

Canadian Bingo is in TroubleThe UK has a lively thriving bingo scene. Bingo has been a staple in Great Britain since the postwar years. In the UK the 60’s and 70’s are considered the ‘golden age’ of bingo in the country and just about every village and remote hamlet had its own High Street bingo hall. Since Canada was a former British colony one would expect the country to have an active bingo industry. At one time bingo was a big business in Canada but this is no longer the case.

At one time players could visit Planet Bingo in Vancouver and find a game in progress. Planet Bingo is the largest bingo hall in North America and in better years the hall was always packed. A reporter from the Globe and Mail recently visited the hall during the daytime and described the hall as ‘quiet.’ At night and on weekends the games are well attended but most say that the heyday of bingo in British Columbia is now a memory. There are several reasons for the decline. A smoking ban cut attendance at games drastically. The same thing happened in the UK in 2007 when a national smoking ban was imposed. Some halls lost over 60% of their regular players and many online bingo sites reported an 80% increase in the number of registered players.

British bingo halls have managed to make a comeback by remodeling old fashioned bingo halls and adding services designed to appeal to young nonsmoking players. Canadian bingo halls, on the other hand, have not made the same efforts to adapt to current conditions. Bingo halls are also losing customers to casinos with thousands of slot machines. An aging and diminishing player base is also putting the pressure on Canadian bingo halls. Annual bingo revenues in British Columbia have declined from $175.3-million in 2007-08 to less than $100-million just four years later.

Planet Bingo is run by the Community Gaming Management Association, which distributes bingo receipts to 80 local charities that depend on bingo for funding. Rich Coleman, the minister responsible for gambling in British Columbia, stated “It’s not like it was. It’s more appreciated, if we’re honest with each other, as a social game.” The minister was blunt when he said of bingo  “[Bingo] has a kind of a future, but it’s certainly not a major product line.” The future of bingo in Canada is uncertain. In Canada bingo halls must partner with charities to hold games. Since attendance and revenues are dropping some charities may have to seek government grants and other funding sources.

Canadian bingo hall operators may want to follow the lead of their British counterparts and add new technologies and modernize their halls to attract a younger group of players.

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