UK Bingo Faces Closures

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Land based bingo clubs in Britain are facing closures due to a combination of high taxes and decreased consumer spending. According to the industry's trade group, the Bingo Association, many halls have seen revenues plummet in recent months. The Bingo Association, a lobbying group for the industry which represents over 200 bingo halls, said that 170 of the UK's 476 bingo clubs making less than £70,000 in annual profits could close in the next three years unless the government relaxed its tax policies for bingo halls.

UK Bingo Faces Closures

The bingo association is asking the government to cut the 20% gross profit tax rate. In contrast bookmakers pay a 15% gross profits tax. Paul Talboys, chief executive of the Bingo Association stated "The current taxation regime is a disaster. When you consider that an average club employs around 30 people and probably needs to invest one million pounds in capex in order to modernize and stay competitive then seventy thousand pounds is not much at all. The ones in trouble tend to be smaller bingo clubs which are much more entrenched in the community."

The New Coronet Bingo Club in Didcot is a good example of a typical small bingo club. The 30 year old hall is family run and faces an uncertain future. Paul Carpenter, the club's owner stated "Our existence is year to year at the moment. Up until last year we were facing closure, getting by on fifteen thousand pounds yearly profit and our savings. Across the UK bingo clubs are closing at a rate of about 10 per year. The Bingo Association says the halls are victims of tighter consumer spending and younger players going on the internet to play internet bingo. The association believes the pace of closures will quicken as clubs affected by the downturn in the economy will be forced to close.

Mr. Carpenter said that during the past two years his customer spending has declined from about seventeen pounds per visit to ten pounds. Carpenter has been forced to cut ticket prices in half to increase customer numbers. Mecca bingo, which is owned by Rank Group, is one of the few companies with money to invest. During the last three years Rank has spent about fifty million pounds to remodel some of its bingo clubs and casinos to appeal to younger players. Mecca's managing director Mark Jones stated "We see life in the market. The whole industry would benefit from a lower tax rate. We haven't been building new clubs and that's one thing we would like to do--the fact that there are no mew builds is worrying for the future of the industry.

The closures will affect women who make up a majority of bingo players in the UK Paul Talboys stated "Government talks about the big society and these clubs are one of the few places where single ladies can go on their own and chat-when they're gone they aren't replaced.

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