Impact of the Smoking Ban on Local Bingo Halls

A smoking ban came into force on 2nd April 2007 in Wales, 30th April 2007 in Scotland and 1st July 2007 in England making it illegal to smoke in all enclosed places as a consequence of the Health Act 2006. Before the smoking ban, many premises took it upon themselves to ban smoking because of general feedback from customers – people didn’t want a smoke-filled environment say when they were trying to enjoy a romantic meal.

In 2005, a complete ban on tobacco advertising on the television was introduced too.

A study in 2007 showed that 63% of all players who visited bingo halls smoked, so it’s no surprise to learn that many bingo halls would have to close their doors for good when players decided to stay away in their droves.

Why was the Smoking Ban Brought Into Effect?

A Public Health white paper was published on the 16th November 2004 that proposed a smoking ban in all public places in England and Wales. This was to ensure that everyone could go about their daily lives whether that be a commute on a train or bus or enjoying a nice drink out with friends could do so without suffering the negative effects of second-hand smoke.

Second-hand smoke is a term used to describe burning tobacco products that are inhaled as they are breathed out by the smoker. This is also known as passive smoking and can cause cancer.

Demise of Bingo Halls?

In 2007, one of Britain’s biggest bingo hall owners; the Rank Group announced that nine of their bingo halls will be closing due to the ban. These halls were Mecca Bingo branches across England and Wales. They said that the closures were in line with its aim of “improving the quality of its clubs” ahead of the smoking ban that is being introduced this same year. They added that the closure of other bingo halls were “inevitable” and other companies would soon follow suit. The closure of bingo halls meant significant job losses too.

The smoking ban led to a decline in players visiting bingo halls, because they could no longer smoke whilst playing bingo, instead they would have to keep nipping out into the street to have a cigarette. This reality soon hit home when it was winter, freezing and pouring with rain.

Neil Goulden, Gala’s chief executive put a figure on the number of bingo halls which would likely to close because of the smoking ban at 12 or 13, however the number of closures within the group could rise.

In February 2008, a Gala Bingo in Scotland was forced to shut its doors for good after a staggering 80% drop in the number of players who used to visit the bingo hall. Gala Bingo in West Granton used to house on average 8,000 bingo customers every week, but those numbers have plummeted to an average of 1,500 a week since the smoking ban came into effect. The club was around for over 12 years and the manager Janet Duncan said she was “devastated” and “What’s put us out of business has certainly been the smoking ban. Also, a bus service that used to stop at our door and pull in punters from Leith and Pennywell no longer runs.” But, a spokeswoman for owners Gala Coral refused to tell people why the club closed and pointed out that the smoking ban alone could not be blamed.

Reverse the Smoking Ban?

Media suggested in 2010 that the government will be reviewing the smoking ban in the summer of 2010 because of claims that it was ‘crippling Britain’s £60bn a-year pub and bingo industry’ but the government soon dismissed this. On the 30th June 2010, the recently formed coalition government announced that it would not be reviewing the ban. Conservative MP David Nutall, in October 2010 attempted to amend the law for private members of clubs and pubs to be exempt from the smoking ban, was defeated in the House of Commons on its first reading.

Cut in tax

In 2014, the UK government halved the tax on all bingo hall profits from the usual 20% to just 10% in a hope it would give land based bingo halls a boost. Bingo supporters are hoping that this cut in duty will attract more players back to the bingo halls. If the bingo owners use the increased profits to reinvest into the clubs and offer bigger and better promotions, this could see even more players come back to the social game of bingo.

A Smoking Ban Boost!

Two good things came out of the smoking ban, one of which was for non-smokers, who could now enjoy playing bingo in a smoke-free and safe environment and the second one is the growth of online bingo.

There’s been a huge growth in online bingo players since 2004 and it’s safe to say that the vast majority were swayed with the smoking ban. Why go and play bingo with no smoking, when you can stay at home and smoke whenever you like? Online bingo operators in the UK reported an 80% increase in player numbers shortly after the smoking ban was enforced, which shows a strong link between the smoking ban and players choosing to play online.

Is Online Bingo to Blame?

Some people may argue that the smoking ban alone was not to blame for the decline in bingo hall admissions, but that the advancing technology was also to blame. Online bingo was more convenient, allowing people to play when and for as long as they like, then soon after mobile bingo took off and players had even more choice with how they play bingo. There’s so many people choosing to play bingo online via their mobile, purely because it’s more comfortable and convenient to access your favourite games from the pal of your hand. There’s been a huge increase in mobile bingo apps too, making it quicker than ever before to access the bingo games you love.