In the UK, bingo is a national institution. From the lowly masses and the elite, to Robbie Williams and Her Majesty the Queen herself, it’s a game that is played by people of all ages from all levels of society. It is so popular in fact, that the whole bingo industry in the UK is estimated to be worth £1.3 billion. The country even has its own long-running National Bingo Game, which is regulated by the Gambling Commission and the Gaming Board of Great Britain. By the mid-2000s, the number of dedicated bingo halls number more than 600; nearly 15,000 people are employed just by these establishments alone.
But you can’t go on a winning streak forever. In 2007, the bingo industry was hit hard by the smoking ban imposed by the UK government on all public places. For older players who were long-time smokers, this was a huge setback. The number of people who were regular bingo hall patrons kept dwindling. At a time when people could’ve easily played a round or two of bingo on their computers or smartphones, it’s easy to see why this is so. The recession at the latter part of the last decade also didn’t help bring new players into the bingo-playing fold.
But why does bingo in the UK seems like it’s on a downward spiral? Apart from the reasons mentioned above, it’s important to note that bingo is taxed very differently from other gambling activities. Instead of the usual 15%, the tax rate for bingo is 20%- almost 5% higher! It’s taking a toll on the already-struggling profits of bingo halls across the country.
So, what can be done about this? Miles Baron, chief executive of the Bingo Association, says that the best course of action to ensure the future of the bingo industry is to ask for a tax cut from the UK government. This will enable bingo halls and clubs to free up funds which they can use to invest in infrastructure development and marketing.
The campaign already has its own fair share of supporters. According to Brian Binley, MP of Northampton South and an avid bingo player himself, said that “Of all forms of gambling, bingo is the most socially welcomed. …I see many people, many of them elderly, who find comfort and friendship…in a warm and happy environment.” In a ComRes poll of more than 2,000 people, 61 percent are in favor of letting bingo halls enjoy a tax cut on their income to help boost the ailing industry.
Should the campaign manage to drum up enough suppport, the future of old-school bingo halls can thus be ensured. While there are a lot of old players out there who are very supportive of their game, the campaign is also getting a lot of support from younger players who have recently got into the bingo craze a while back.
So, will the tax cut campaign be successful? We can never tell. But from the looks of it, it’s gaining a whole lot of traction from players and from people who believe in its social