UK Bingo is Big Business but the Smoking Ban Will Hit Home Hard
The UK’s bingo industry currently employs over 20,000 people and currently, each week, more than 3 million people play bingo in clubs and bingo halls around the UK.
Since the introduction of the smoking ban in Scotland, dedicated bingo clubs have seen a serious decline in the number of players coming through their doors. What will the future hold for UK Bingo companies after the smoking ban introduction in England comes into force in July?
Experts have stated that one in three bingo clubs will possibly have to close down altogether after the ban comes into force and, if England, follows the lead from Scotland this will have devastating effects on the viability of the business for some club owners.
Since the introduction of the smoking ban last year in Scotland, a total of 10 bingo halls have closed and this is just the tip of the iceberg. Many club owners have been reluctant to throw in the towel and have been running on declined revenue for some time now hoping for an resurgence of players but time is running out for many of them and more are due to close in the coming months.
The ban on smoking in enclosed places comes into force in England on the 1st of July 2007 and with half of all bingo players estimated to be smokers the decline is set to be just as bad south of the Border.
Both Gala and Mecca Bingo have both commented on how the smoking ban has hit their businesses in Scotland and have hinted at possible closures. This could result in many thousands of workers losing their jobs.
However, these companies, which dominate the UK bingo market, are large enough to adapt and survive the ban, although changes to the way they operate are already being put in place.
Gala currently has 171 clubs and Mecca Bingo have 103 clubs spread over the UK, but the majority of these are in England where the smoking ban has yet to come into force. Mecca are currently on a drive to garner new, younger players and Gala have recently employed the services of Sharon Osbourne to try and attract players to their clubs.
Both of these companies are pushing their online bingo products to build their businesses and increase their revenues as more players than ever are expected to move to playing bingo online rather than venture to the smoke free clubs.
The smaller bingo halls are being hit the worst. Many of these bingo halls are running on an already narrow margin and a reduction in turnover can only mean one thing, that they are not going to be able to continue.
Most problems in Scotland and Northern Ireland at the moment stem from the intervals where clubs traditionally make most of their money by running cash bingo games. These are quicker playing games that legally can only be played during the intervals in main play. Players aren’t waiting round for these games as they dash outside for a cigarette.
The Cash Bingo games are for low stakes but they make for the high profits due to the increases margins available on these types of games. The smaller UK bingo companies will struggle without these profit enhancing games being played with large numbers of players.