Posted on 11 June 2013
A quiet revolution is taking place in the UK bingo industry. For decades bingo halls were a traditional gathering place for working class women and pensioners. Players would gather once or twice a week in smoke filled bingo halls to play their favorite game. Traditional bingo games were well attended especially in the industrial town in northern England and at seaside resorts like Brighton. The 60s’ and 70s’ have been called the ‘golden age’ of bingo in the UK. Since then bingo has suffered a slow decline. In 2006 tragedy struck the bingo industry in the form of a national smoking ban. Some bingo halls reported a 60% drop in player numbers and dozens of halls were forced to close putting thousands out of work.
In the late 90s’ bingo staged a comeback by adopting new computer technologies. The first internet bingo site went online in 1996 and the rest is history. Software advances enabled operators to offer high quality games. In 2002 there were about 20 online bingo sites and today there are about 350. This has created fierce industry competition that has benefitted players in many ways. Jackpots are higher and operators are constantly creating new promotions and bonuses. The online bingo boom has done little to help the land based bingo industry. Today about three million people in the UK play online bingo at least twice a week.
After the imposition of the smoking ban several large bingo hall operators launched their own online bingo operations to stay competitive and remain profitable. Recent research by Mintel and other has shown that today’s online bingo audience is primarily female and most players are in the 18-45 age group. For years the online bingo industry has been subject to high taxation. Bingo operators pay a 20% tax while all other forms of gambling are taxed at 15%. Recently all-party Parliamentary Bingo Group met to discuss the issues faced by the bingo industry. The group was composed of 19 Members of Parliament and 48 members of the UKs Bingo Association.
The Bingo Association works with Bingo Hall operators and lobbies government officials and members of Parliament. The association has been pushing for a more equitable tax rates. Association members have pointed out that online bingo operators pay a 15% tax rate and feel that the 20% rate paid by brick and mortar bingo halls is unfair. Bingo halls are facing difficult times and every month one or two bingo halls are forced to close.
Posted on 04 June 2013
For years bingo operators in the UK have been subject to higher taxation than any other form of gambling. Bingo operators pay a 205 tax while casinos and bookmakers pay a 15% tax. This has been a sore point for bingo operators. Operators have lobbied Members of Parliament and regulators without success. So far the government has been unresponsive to requests for fair taxation of bingo. High taxation puts jobs and businesses at risk and high tax rates have been responsible for the closure of several bingo halls in the UK. Many people in the bingo industry are prepared to fight for a fair tax rate.
On April 24th there was an annual reception for the All Party Parliamentary Bingo Group. This was a major event for the bingo industry and allows representatives of the industry to make connections with politicians and government officials. There were 19 members of Parliament in attendance at the meeting and 48 representatives of the bingo industry. Hugh Robertson, the Minister for Sport and Gambling gave the keynote address. In his address Robertson pointed out that that bingo is a huge factor in the life of local communities and the government should recognize this fact.
Miles Baron, the Chief Executive of the Bingo Association, spoke on behalf of the bingo industry and stated “We are delighted to have held another successful parliamentary reception on bingo. The number of MPs who have attended has grown year on year and highlights the growing support we are gaining from within Westminster to tackle our tax rate. I would like to thank all my members who were able to attend and show their support and I have no doubts this year’s event will aid our continued lobbying efforts against the inequitable tax system levied on bingo.”
The fight for fair taxation is likely to continue for years to come. The government has been totally unresponsive to the pleas of the bingo industry. Bingo halls are also facing high fees for local licenses. A few years the laws were changed to allow cities and towns to charge whatever they want for local licenses. In many cases license fees doubled or tripled. The rise in fees caused several marginal bingo halls to close leaving many communities without a bingo hall. There is no doubt that the bingo industry will continue its fight for fair tax policies.
Posted on 15 November 2012
Every industry must have its own pioneers. The auto industry had Henry Ford, the oil industry had John D Rockefeller and the computer and software industry had Bill Gates and the late Steve Jobs. In the online gambling and casino sector one of the pioneers has been Fifty-one-year-old Mark Blandford who was a pioneer bookmaker in the UK. Blandford developed his taste for gambling when his father would take him to horse races. Listening to his father and friends Blandford learned there was more money to be made in bookmaking than in betting on horses.
Blandford set up his first betting shop when he was only 27 and soon had a small chain of shops. Blandford learned from a neighbor that the EU was engaged in an e-commerce project. His curiosity was aroused and he searched the keywords “sports betting” and “bookmaking” in a search engine and found few results. Blandford saw an opportunity and jumped on it immediately. In 1998 Blandford set up the online betting site Sportingbet. Blandford believed the industry would thrive if it was regulated. Blandford stated “If it is not legal, you can’t control anything. The underworld doesn’t care if children are involved.”
Sportingbet acquired its American competitors which was then the largest online gambling market in the world. Sportingbet has a market value of $3.1 billion US. In 2006 Sportingbet’s chairman Peter Dicks was arrested in the US thanks to a warrant by a publicity seeking federal prosecutor. After the US passed the ill advised UIGEA Sportingbet was forced to leave the US market.
Blandford was a true pioneer in the online gaming industry. He paved the way for a regulated online gaming market in the UK and the online bingo industry owes Blandford a debt of gratitude. Thanks to his efforts the UK now has the world’s most active online gaming market in the world. The UK also has the largest online bingo market thanks to regulation. British punters enjoy a level of consumer protections not available to players in other countries. Mark Blandford is still in the industry and his influence is still felt.
Posted on 08 October 2012
Most online bingo players have dreamed at one time or another of becoming a chat moderator. For most it appears to be an easy and fun job but just how easy is it in reality? Chat leaders play games, joke with the players and are there to help with problems and site issues. As one author said, bingo chat leaders are the glue that holds the online bingo experience together. A lot of people apply whenever an opening is available for a new chat leader.
Chat leaders have many responsibilities and the job is far from easy. Ask just about any chat leader and they will say the job is a lot harder than they thought it would be. If the job only involved talking and joking with players it would be a dream job. A chat leader’s responsibilities include making sure all of the games are running smoothly and if they are not they need to fix the problem or contact the appropriate person. They must deal with inquiries from players and must be able to solve problems and resolve disputes. Chat leaders need to be entertaining enough to keep players coming back for more. They must also keep track of the called numbers in case a player misses the call. They also need to organize and manage special chat room games.
In most cases chat leaders do not get any breaks during their shift. There are very few off days and chat leaders must be available for any assigned shift. Since games take place 24/7 chat leaders may be required to work odd hours. If they are ill they cannot show it to the players. Chat leaders must be vibrant and energetic every time they are on the site. At most of the well-established bingo sites new players sign up daily and the chat leader must meet and greet new players. A grumpy chat leader can drive players away and surly chat leaders do not last long. Like any employee dealing with the public chat leaders are subject to reviews by players. Players can make or break a chat leader.
In addition to being constantly personable chat leaders must learn some of the technical aspects of an online bingo site. Chat leaders need to learn how to operate some of the game software and must be familiar with browsers and how they affect games. They must also help players with deposit and withdrawal issues and should be familiar with all of the terms and conditions associated with any bonuses or promotional offers. Obviously the job of chat leader is not as easy as it sounds. For those still interested in employment as a chat leader there are a few websites that list all available jobs in the bingo industry.
Posted on 28 September 2012
Few countries love bingo as much as Great Britain. The game has been a part of British culture since the end of the Great War. In the UK most play 90 ball bingo which is somewhat different than American style 75 ball bingo. 90 ball bingo has a close resemblance to an ole Italian holiday game called Tombola. In the UK over three million people log in at bingo sites every week. Great Britain has the world’s most active online gaming market thanks to the Gambling Act of 2005. Instead of taking a prohibitionist approach like the United States the UK created a regulatory body to protect the interest of online gamblers.
In recent years the bingo industry has been fighting high taxation. Bingo is taxed at 22% while all other forms of gambling are taxed 15%. Many operators have moved offshore to avoid taxation but a recent ‘point of consumption’ tax will eliminate the unfair tax advantages enjoyed by offshore operators. Thanks to the gambling commission bingo players in the UK enjoy a high level of consumer protection since operators are highly regulated. Offshore operators must also adhere to high standards to do business in the UK. Most gaming experts predict a bright future for land based and online bingo in the UK. Online bingo has made the game popular with the young which has in turn benefited the land based bingo industry. Last year Rank Corporation, which operates Mecca bingo halls throughout the UK, spent millions of pounds refurbishing their bingo halls to appeal to a younger casual group of players.
For most players playing bingo is a social experience. It is common to see groups of friends that have played bingo games together for decades. In bingo halls the conversations between games is lively but talking during games is not acceptable. At online bingo sites players are actually encouraged to interact during games via chat rooms. Over the years bingo has developed a language of its own. At online bingo sites most of the language, or ‘bingo lingo,’ consists of abbreviations. At land based bingo halls various phrases are used when calling the game numbers. A good example would be ‘two fat ladies’ which is used for the number 88. In most cases other players will be happy to help newcomers to learn ‘bingo lingo.’ Bingo provides millions in the UK with hours of fun and entertainment and most gaming experts say the game has a very bright future in the UK.
Posted on 04 September 2012
Playtech, the owner of VirtueFusion which powers some of the biggest online bingo sites in the industry, has just released the company’s figures for the first half of 2012. The released figures show increased revenues of 64%. Playtech said the company has had good performances in all of the sectors of their business including online bingo, casinos and sports betting platforms. At the start of the third quarter which is traditionally a slow time in the industry showed increases of 25% for Playtech.
Playtech credits several factors for the increases. The increase in mobile gaming which includes sports betting and the company’s live casino products are all credited for the company’s stellar performance. Playtech also said that the increased interest in social gaming has helped their operations. The financial announcement coincides with the company’s release of a new Android app for their Bingo product. Players will be able to play 90, 75, and 80 ball bingo games on their android phones. Customers can also play deal or no dal and deal bingo on their android phones.
When the new android application was launched Rhys Owen, Head of Bingo at Playtech stated “This is a significant step for Playtech in terms of cementing our position as the leading supplier of bingo software in the industry as well as offering licensees the largest networked bingo and jackpot liquidity through a new and thriving channel.” Owen also said by analyzing the trends in the sportsbook and casino sectors “it is only logical that we develop a mobile offering which enables our partners to attract a new type of payer as well as giving our licensees an additional medium through which to engage with their players.”
For bingo fans the new app means that they will no longer have to be at home to play. The first online bingo brand to launch the app will be William Hill. Playtech has also announced plans to release the new app for iOS and HTML in the near future. The new app also allows players to chat with other players while playing bingo. There are also miniature versions of some side games for mobile players. Screen size has hindered the development of side games for mobile players.
Posted on 31 July 2012
For years the UK bingo association has tried to get Parliament to lower the tax rates levied against live bingo halls in the UK. In addition to high taxation bingo halls also face higher local licensing fees and a new tax on slots. A few bingo halls have reported that a large portion of their income is generated by slots and the new tax lowers their profits significantly. Many bingo halls are walking a financial tightrope and even the slightest increase in fees or taxes could force them to close. In the UK bingo is taxed at 20% and all other forms of gambling are taxed at 15%. So far there has been no logical explanation for the high taxes paid by bingo operators.
A recent report by the Department of Culture Media and Sport titled “The Gambling Act 2005: A bet worth taking?” says that bingo should be taxed at the same rate as other forms of gambling. The statement has the full backing of the UK Bingo Association which has been trying to establish tax parity for years. The report contains an extensive review of the gambling act and has assessed the development, implementation, enforcement and impact on operators and consumers and makes several recommendations.
In section three of the report, the industry, tax and regulation, the report documents the history of the tax levied against bingo halls and the industry in general. The report states “In 2003, bingo taxation was reformed in order to bring it in line with the wider industry: turnover tax was abolished and bingo was subject to a gross profits tax (GPT), charged at 15%. VAT charges were removed later. In 2009, the Government increased bingo GPT from 15% to 22%. In 2010 this rate was reduced to 20% because of industry complaints that 22% was too high” The report goes on to say that bingo is considered by most as a ‘soft’ form of gambling and recommends that the Treasury assess and investigate the position of the bingo industry during the next financial year.
Paul Talboys, the Chief Executive of the Bingo Association, discussed the report and stated “We are pleased that the Select Committee has recognised that bingo should be taxed at 15%, bringing it in line with the other forms of gambling in the UK. We remain convinced that a fair tax regime which supports UK jobs and stimulates local economies can only be achieved by introducing a single rate of tax for all products governed by The Gambling Act. In moving forward to create a sector with a genuinely ‘level playing field’ it will be essential for all involved, that the DCMS and Treasury, who are responsible for creating the framework (regulatory and tax) that the industry operates within, work together in a co-operative and considered manner.”
Posted on 28 June 2012
The UK Bingo Association was formed in 1998 shortly after the merger of the British Bingo Operators‘Association and the Bingo Association of Great Britain. Bingo is a part of British culture and occupies a unique place in the gambling industry in Great Britain. Over three million UK residents play internet bingo and live bingo regularly. The bingo association works with operators, government agencies and regulators, lawmakers, and organizations that address problem gambling. The online bingo industry pioneered the self-exclusion option for problem gamblers. Currently there are 50 bingo proprietors that are members of the association. Members range in size from large operators like Mecca to smaller operators like Carlton Leisure.
The association has also been very active in addressing tax policies related to internet and live bingo. The organization has worked tirelessly to eliminate the unfair tax advantages enjoyed by offshore internet bingo operators and has also addressed the problem of double taxation of live bingo halls. The Bingo Association has been partially responsible for proposed legislation that will tax all wagers made by UK residents at the point of consumption doing away with the unfair tax advantages of offshore operators.
On June 27th the UK Bingo Association announced the appointment of Mark Jones as the new Chairman of the group. Jones is the managing director of Mecca Bingo. Jones joined the Rank Group in 2009 and will keep his current position while serving as chairman of the association. Patrick Duffy, of Palatial Leisure, will assume the role of vice chairman of the association. Mecca has been a member of the association for years and is one of Britain’s largest bingo operators. Mecca operates several clubs throughout Britain and also has a large online bingo operation. Mecca is committed to working with other bingo brands to further the interests of the bingo industry as a whole.
Jones said of his new position “I am delighted to have been appointed to the position of chair of the Bingo Association.” Jones also said his prime focus will be “to continue the Associations campaign to secure a fairer tax deal for bingo and work further towards changing people’s perception of the industry.” The previous chair Brian Mattingly was appointed in 2009 but his duties at 888 Holdings as Chief Executive Officer has forced him to step down. The Chief Executive of the Bingo Association, Paul Talboys, said of the change “Brian’s contribution to the Association is greatly appreciated and I have really enjoyed working with him. The industry faces numerous challenges, specifically in relation to the securing a fair tax regime. Mark’s experience in the leisure industry will be an immense asset toward navigating the road ahead.”
Posted on 30 May 2012
According to most industry experts the UK has the most active bingo scene on the planet. The game gained immense popularity during the postwar years and was played at the holiday camps that were popular during those years. The real story of British bingo actually begins in the swinging 60’s when Carnaby Street set the fashion standards for the emerging counterculture. In 1960 Parliament passed the Gaming Act which set the stage for the ‘golden age’ of British bingo.
Once bingo was a legal activity in licensed members-only club Eric Morley, the founder of Mecca Bingo, realized the potential mass appeal of bingo in Britain. After a visit to the United States Morley saw the commercial possibilities of bingo. Morley was already famous in England for bringing some glamour and entertainment to drab post was Britain with his Miss World beauty competition. At the time Mecca owned and operated several ballrooms. The ballrooms were losing popularity because of new leisure activities such as television. Morley saw bingo as the perfect way to repurpose the ballrooms.
For the most part Mecca used its glamorous ballrooms and converted cinemas to offer players an upscale bingo experience. Morley also added the now famous glass cabinets filled with numbered bingo balls. This contrasted with the boring US style of randomly picking numbers out of a bag and offered players a more exciting atmosphere. The glamour and affordability of the new bingo halls made them an instant hit with working class women. Throughout the 60’s and 70’s hundreds of bingo halls opened in Britain and Ireland. Unfortunately the glamour of the 60’s and 70’s faded in the 80’s and entertainment preferences changed. Cinemas reinvented themselves as multiplex theatres and disco style dance clubs appeared.
It became hard for bingo to compete with the new forms of entertainment and the population of bingo players began to age. Interest in the game revived in the 90’s and the first online bingo sites appeared on the internet. The advent of online bingo created a revolution in the domestic British bingo scene. Faster computer speeds and increased broadband access made the game even more attractive, especially for younger players. Today there are over 400 internet bingo sites on the internet and the online bingo industry has expanded into Scandinavia, Italy and Spain. Today Great Britain has the world’s most active bingo market. British bingo sites offer traditional 75 ball and 90 ball bingo games. Even better the games are very affordable and players can win serious amounts of cash.
Bingo has come a long way in Britain since Eric Morley opened the first mecca bingo hall. Today Mecca is owned and operated by gaming giant Rank Group. Earlier in the year Rank announced plans to refurbish and modernize several bingo halls to cater to the needs of the new generation of British bingo players.
Posted on 06 May 2012
Many bingo players in the UK are probably unaware that there is a trade associations dedicated to serving the interests of the bingo industry and players. The bingo association makes sure that bingo clubs throughout the UK are kept informed of any changes in government policies related to bingo in the UK. The trade group was formed by bingo operators to help operators to run games more efficiently and protect the interests of players.
The group should not be confused with the UK Gambling Commission which is a regulatory body set up by the government after the passage of the Gambling act in 2005.The bingo association has been instrumental in helping operators to help assess governmental rebates that operators may be eligible for and to help operators promote bingo games and the bingo industry. In 2006 the association worked hard to get a partial smoking ban in UK bingo halls to protect the right of players that smoke. Unfortunately they were unsuccessful and the land based bingo industry in the UK was hard hit by the ban. The organization lobbied for a ten million pound rebate from the government to offset revenues lost by bingo halls because of the draconian smoking ban.
The bingo association has also fought against the double taxes that bingo halls must pay. They have fought for a reduction in VAT taxes and the Amusement Machine License Duty. Because the UK bingo industry contributes so much to the treasury the association is in a unique position and can approach government regulators and MP’s directly without having to go through middlemen. Online bingo operators are trying to set up their own trade organization. One proposed group called Eubingo is defunct and never really got off the ground.
The UK bingo association helps bingo halls, clubs, players and bingo sites to keep up to date on industry developments and changes in gaming laws and taxation affecting the bingo industry. The bingo association has been instrumental in promoting industry growth. This year the association lobbied in favor of a ‘point of consumption’ tax that would eliminate the unfair tax advantages of offshore online bingo sites. The bingo association has done a great job promoting the interests of the UK bingo industry and hopefully their efforts will continue well into the future.