Posted February 19, 2014 by John Baintree in News

UK Bingos halls struggle for a full house

UK Bingos halls struggle for a full house
UK Bingos halls struggle for a full house

Housey housey has long been a favoured way for many people to enjoy a flutter or two. The industry was buoyed up with success and was looking to a rosy future because of its place in the hearts of many. Sadly though, the upside has all but disappeared and the game appears to be in major decline. Since 2005 the number of clubs and halls has dropped from 600 in 2005 to less than 400 today. So what lies at the root of this worrying trend.

Industry leaders cite taxation as only of the major reasons for the decrease in club numbers. Despite being recognised as one of the softest forms of gambling, the industry is subject to punitive taxation, especially in the VAT arena where capital expenditure still attracts VAT.

With the industry seeing the number of clubs falling, it has also seen a decline in the number of people it employs. In the last ten years 6,500 jobs have disappeared although truthfully that fall appears to have stabilised at recent levels of 12,500.

Perhaps most telling is the decline in attendance.  Numbers have fallen from 80 million in 2005 to 43 million today, an almost 50% fall. The game was particularly hard hit when the smoking ban came into being in 2007 and responded by reorganising gaming to attract a more pub oriented audients. Numbers rallied slightly but the decline has now assumed more serious levels.

Perhaps more of an issue is the explosion in online Bingo sites. You cannot watch any afternoon TV that carries advertising without noticing the huge variety of bingo websites now operating. All offering a register and get free stake money deal it is interesting to note that the major players are now all increasing the size of the free stake to attract new members.

Brian Binley, Tory MP for Northampton South is chair of the all-party parliamentary group on bingo, a fan of the dabber himself, he claims that the short sightedness of HMRC needs to be challenged because investment in new clubs means new jobs. The Bingo Association also maintain that clubs should be taxed at a more preferential rate to allow them to survive but it seems unlikely that HMRC will agree to that which means we should expect an increase in the prevalence of online bingo probably at the continued expense of the traditional game.