Last Bingo Hall Standing

The town of Sarnia is located in Ontario Canada just across the bridge from Detroit. At one time millions of players regularly crossed the bridge into Canada to patronize the casinos in the Windsor Sarnia area. The recession which has hit Detroit hard has drastically cut the number of players crossing the bridge to play at Canadian casinos. Ten years ago Sarnia had ten bingo halls and was considered the ‘bingo capitol’ of Canada. Today only one bingo hall is left and the last remaining bingo hall is facing financial trouble.

Currently Bingo Country is the only bingo hall operating in Sarnia. In Canada charities take turns running games at commercial bingo halls. Many charities have been left homeless by the closure of Sarnia’s bingo halls. Bingo Country has agreed to accommodate 41 charities left homeless by the recent closure of Harvey’s Bingo.  Six months ago Bingo Country purchased the license of Harvey’s bingo and tried to make a go of the struggling business.  Game attendance declined and Bingo Country was forced to close the bingo hall forever. George Prue, regional manager at Bingo Country stated, “Charities at Harvey’s earned less than $100 per session, sometimes as little as $25. We tried very hard to turn things around at Harvey’s but it still wasn’t enough to keep it open.”

Bingo Country has added more nighttime and weekend games for the convenience of players. It has been estimated that now Bingo Country will handle bingo games for about 100 charities. The groups support a wide range of causes and include Canada Day, the kidney foundation, Bluewater Gymnastics, Rebound, several schools and numerous service clubs. Canada is not the only country where land based bingo is in trouble. Last year about two bingo clubs closed each week in the United Kingdom. Several factors contributed to the closures including the national smoking ban, high taxation and increased local licensing fees for bingo halls.

While the land based bingo industry suffered setbacks most bingo sites reported increased profits. The number of players at internet bingo sites has increased by 80% in the UK since the imposition of the smoking ban. In Canada the decline is blamed on commercial casinos and competition from commercial bingo operations. In Canada many First Nations have opened elaborate gambling operations including massive bingo halls. One First Nations reserve has become a premiere licensing jurisdiction for the global internet gaming industry. For Sarnia the days of being the ‘bingo capitol’ are clearly over.

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