In the UK bingo halls are in real trouble. Fewer players attend games and while online bingo is thriving land based bingo halls are closing at the rate of one every month. The decline started in 2007 shortly after the imposition of a national smoking ban. Dozens of bingo halls were forced to close and hundreds of jobs were lost forever. Many bingo halls tried to attract young nonsmoking players but after modest gains the player base continued to decline. Even worse bingo halls in the UK are subject to a punitive tax regime. Despite bingo’s reputation as a ‘soft’ form of gambling bingo halls are taxed at a higher rate than other forms of gambling. Currently bingo halls pay a 20% tax while casinos and bookmakers pay a 15% tax.
Several MP’s have pledged to aid the bingo industry. Bolton North East MP David Crausby is one of those politicians and actually tried his hand at bingo calling. Crausby went to a Mecca bingo club to support the Boost Bingo campaign, a national program by the Bingo Association to persuade the government to lower taxes on bingo halls. Crausby was asked to call a game and the politician told reporters he took the game very seriously. Crausby stated “I used a couple of the famous expressions, but people take their bingo seriously, so I kept it simple and professional — and nobody was booing me, which is a plus. This is a campaign I am supporting, and I saw firsthand that bingo clubs are a safe and enjoyable place for people to go and have a nice time. It is not fair that bingo is charged at a higher rate of tax. We want these clubs to thrive. They are good employers and offer people the chance to socialise where they might not normally be able to — so that is why I am backing the campaign.”
Crausby said the club’s manager, Gary Taylor, offered him a job as a bingo caller if he lost his seat in Parliament. Crausby said “That was very nice of him, but I intend to win at the next election and keep my day job.” Taylor, who manages the Breightmet bingo hall, said “David was a real professional and he got a very good reception from the players — he has a good clear voice which is good for the job. We are also pleased that Mr. Crausby is backing the Boost Bingo campaign. He recognises that we are not asking for preferential treatment, we just want it to be a level playing field. Bingo clubs are such a valuable commodity for people and we need to keep them open.”