The Bingo Association, which represents the interests of land-based club operators and third parties in Great Britain, has announced its concerns over the impending effect of high taxes and low consumer spending on bingo halls.
The Association claims that revenues have recently plummeted, with almost one-third of clubs being threatened with closure if the UK government fails to reduce or subsidise the industry’s tax rate. They are currently lobbying the government to cut the 20% tax rate, to a figure more in line with the 15% rate that is levied on land-based bookies.
The Association’s Chief Executive, Paul Talboys, claims the “current taxation regime is a disaster,” and that clubs making under £70,000 annual profit are at the highest risk of going under. He is concerned that smaller clubs may have to close their doors, which would have a negative effect on their local communities. One such club is the New Coronet bingo hall in Didcot, South Oxfordshire, which has been run by a local family for the past 30 years. Its owner, Paul Carpenter, says the hall has been struggling by on only £15,000 annual profit, and has to exist on a year-to-year basis. With the average spend at the New Coronet dropping from £17 per session to just £10 over the past two years, Mr. Carpenter has been forced to cut his ticket prices by half, in order to encourage an upturn in footfall.
With the increase in the number of players turning to online gambling, and individuals making cut-backs on spending, as many as ten clubs are closing their doors each year. Mr. Talboys claims that this number will increase significantly over the coming years, as smaller and financially-failing businesses finally shut up shop.
Mecca Bingo is one of the most well-known names in the community, and unlike many smaller clubs, has had the necessary capital to invest in its premises. Over £50m has been spent on club refurbs over the past three years, giving the brand a makeover that it hopes will appeal to a younger audience. New additions include live music, more slots and nightclub-style lounges. The Managing Director of Mecca, Mark Jones, is a big supporter of the introduction of a lower tax rate for the industry, and says that they’ve been unable to open new clubs since 2009, due to the concern about the future of land-based bingo halls.
We’d be interested in your views on this story. If your local club closed, how would if affect you and others in your community? Do you agree that the government should take immediate steps to prevent the decline of struggling businesses?