New Laws Could Boost UK Bingo Halls

Many blame the national smoking ban for the demise of many bingo halls in the UK but the ban was just one of a number of factors that pressured bingo halls. The troubles began long before the imposition of the smoking ban in 2007. In 2005 Parliament passed the Gambling Act that limited the number of slot and fruit machines at bingo halls. At some bingo halls the revenues from slots accounted for about half of all monthly revenues. The gambling act of 2005 was the first in a series of blows that almost destroyed the industry.

Since the gambling  law limited the number of lucrative slot machines in bingo halls many suffered an immediate decline in revenues. Of course expenses for the halls remained the same and bingo operators were forced to lay off employees and cut back on other services. In 2007 the smoking ban caused a severe decline in player attendance at live bingo games. Heavy taxation also took its toll and bingo is now taxed at a higher rate than any other form of gambling in the UK. Even worse the laws were changed to allow local governments to charge higher licensing fees for bingo halls. Some local town councils doubled or even tripled the amount they charged for bingo licenses.

At the beginning of May the UK Gambling Commission said that all licensed bingo halls must offer bingo as the primary gaming activity. The commission told operators that bingo halls where bingo was not the primary form of gaming available would attract the attention of regulators. One gaming analyst stated “You cannot expect to use a bingo licence to run a business that isn’t bingo just to take advantage of the gaming machines entitlement. Operators of bingo premises should ensure that sufficient provision is made to ensure the primary gambling activity is bingo.”

There may be some relief in store for bingo halls. Earlier this year Tourism Minister John Penrose said that changes in the gambling law may be in store. Penrose has been keeping an eye on what effect the closure of bingo halls and arcades have had on resort communities. Penrose has said that bingo halls and arcades play an important part in the economies of resort towns.

While bingo halls continue to suffer online bingo sites are having a great year. Most bingo sites are reporting positive first quarter figures and many posted record profits during the fourth quarter of last year. Bingo operators are hoping that the gambling commission will make some adjustments to current laws that will make bingo halls profitable again.

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