Operators are losers as bingo profits fall

SCOTTISH bingo operators are set to hand a petition into the government next week to press UK ministers to address a range of policies that they say are having a serious impact on the industry.

Organisers from the Bingo Association say that, with up to 200 clubs throughout Britain facing closure as a result of combination of taxation, licensing, overburdening legislation and the impact of the smoking ban, clubs and players are launching the "Stop Destroying My Bingo" campaign.

Its figures show clubs have seen a severe downturn in business since Scotland's smoking ban was implemented, with a drop in attendance of almost 17 per cent in Scotland and an average drop in profits of up to 44 per cent.

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Some smaller clubs have even experienced up to 120 per cent reduction in profit with 11 in Scotland already having closed. The imminent introduction of a ban in England and Wales is expected to have an effect similar to that experienced in Scotland, but amplified, with another nine English closures already announced. With new gaming regulation set for introduction in October 2007, this interim period is crucial to ensure clubs survive.

Yesterday, Mecca said it had seen revenues fall 15 per cent as a result of the smoking ban in Scotland, according to their owner, the Rank Group, which said it is now planning ahead to limit the effects of an introduction of the ban in England in April. UK bingo hall profit was down by 19 per cent to 63 million, and "trading in Scotland remains difficult with a slight increase in the level of revenue decline", Rank said.

Bingo Association chairman Sir Peter Fry said: "The future burden of operation facing clubs under such policies will be intolerable for many, forcing them to close. The government must take action now to prevent the industry from being forced into drastic decline with resulting loss of social facilities, jobs and community."

Rank has already earmarked nine bingo halls for sale and is aiming to build sheltered enclosures for smokers outside all its remaining clubs in England and Wales. It also hopes to win a licence for outdoor bingo in these enclosures.