UK Bingo Hall Closures – Is the Smoking Ban Really to Blame?

In 2007, the UK implemented a national smoking ban and since then about 130 bingo clubs have closed across the country which amounts to about 20% of all bingo clubs. Earlier in the year it was announced that the government would conduct a review of the smoking ban and its effect on the pub and bingo industries. Many claim that the ban is ‘crippling’ the £6 billion a-year ($9,354,000,091.55 USD) pub and bingo industry. In addition to the bingo industry the Beer Pub Association says that about 39 pubs close weekly and in 2009 2,365 pubs closed and that over 24,000 jobs were permanently lost in the pub industry. At the time the ban was proposed the government said a review would take place three years after the ban went into effect. At the time the ban was implemented Health Secretary Patricia Hewitt, told MPs, “We will monitor the impact from day one, and we will have a full review at the end of three years.”

Some are contesting the recent figures saying that many of the bingo hall and pub closures are the result of the global recession and that the smoking ban has not had the drastic effect that representative from both industries claim. Many experts cite the demand for inexpensive home based entertainment for the decline of bingo halls and pubs. Changing tastes were also cited. Many younger people prefer trendy bars over traditional pubs and many land based bingo players went online to play their favorite game at home.

Some experts point out that land based bingo has been declining since the late 1990’s and that the greed of some bingo hall owners made bingo unaffordable to many pensioners on fixed incomes. Although the smoking ban remains controversial the government decided that no review of the ban would take place this year. A Department of Health spokeswoman told the BBC: “We currently have no plans for a review.”  Exemptions for pubs not serving food and private members’ clubs had been proposed but Members of Parliament decided not to provide any exemptions at all. Bingo halls are particularly hard hit in cold weather when smokers are forced to go outside for a smoke.

For the internet bingo game industry, the ban has been a boon. Thousands of players have switched to playing at bingo sites like BingoHouse and the industry was one of the few to expand during the recession. For the time being, bingo players who smoke can still play their favorite game online.

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