As great as it is reporting on the fantastic spirit the UK bingo community is showing during these difficult times, BingoDaily also has the displeasure of reporting on the closure of numerous bingo clubs throughout the British Isles over the last twelve months.
The pandemic and subsequent lockdowns have rocked the hospitality industry and in particular the bingo scene.
Bingo clubs have been one of the hardest-hit areas since the pandemic hit our shores. In Scotland, since the lockdown in March, most bingo clubs have been closed for nine out of the last ten months. Even when open, bingo clubs have been operating with significant restrictions. These restrictions included reduced opening hours and running at no more than 25% capacity.
Clearly this unsustainable. Bingo Clubs have received no specific financial support from the Scottish Government. More than a thousand jobs are at risk with some clubs already closing their doors for good other clubs to seriously consider permanent closure.
Bingo club operators have been forced to rely on small closure grants for their clubs, worth up to £3000 per month per, to cover the costs of bills, rent, utilities and employment costs.
It is estimated that the bingo sector has lost more than £80million in revenue over the past ten months. The smaller and independent UK bingo clubs facing particular hardship.
Now, a campaign has launched by the Bingo Association to save Scottish bingo. It follows a stark warning issued that local bingo clubs could become a thing of the past if the Scottish Government do not provide financial support.
“The Local Bingo Club Could Become a Thing of the Past”
Miles Baron, Chief Executive Officer at the Bingo Association in Scotland said:
“Bingo clubs have been entertaining a largely working-class, female, demographic since the 1960s and contribute significantly not only to our local economy but also to our local communities where they provide schemes intended to address the social isolation of many of our customers.
“It is therefore extremely difficult to explain to our valued customers, and our employees, why their pastime and job is seemingly of less importance to save than other entertainment and hospitality businesses, many of whom have received significant funding from the Scottish Government.
“Without support, the local bingo club could become a thing of the past. All we are asking is that the Scottish Government levels the playing field and grants us the same support that our friends and colleagues in hospitality, cinemas and nightclubs have all received”.
“It’s a Real Lifeline for People”
Clive Newton, Regional Director at Buzz Bingo said:
“Our clubs really are at the heart of local communities. For many, visiting Buzz Bingo is a way to stay in touch and socialise with friends and family – it’s a real lifeline for people and something many miss terribly at the moment.
“That’s why we’re calling on the Scottish Government to help support the bingo industry in the same way they’ve supported other hospitality and entertainment businesses. Whilst clubs up and down the country remain closed for now, we want to ensure that when the world returns to normal, bingo clubs are able to reopen and welcome the community back once more.”
“Crying Out for Support”
Ryann Stisi, owner of Pavilion Bingo Club in Galashiels added:
“Pavilion Bingo Club has been in my family for 21 years and is the only bingo club left in the Scottish Borders. Since the beginning of the pandemic, I’ve been crying out for support from the Scottish Government, but nothing has arrived.
“Without funding, it will be a struggle to survive. And it’s not just me who will suffer – it’s my amazing employees, the local businesses who supply our bar, and of course our fantastic customers who come from all over the borders to play bingo. In normal times, I actually put-on ten free buses a week to get them to the club – because they love it so much and it’s so important for them to have a safe space to socialise.
“What makes it harder to swallow is that I share my building with a cinema, and they’ve received lots of funding from the Scottish Government to help them survive. I’m happy for them, but I don’t understand why the Government has decided that one form of entertainment is more important to save than another”.
The Future of Bingo in Scotland is at Risk
The new campaign website states: “The future of bingo in Scotland is at risk and we need your help to save it”, asking customers to write to ministers asking for the industry to receive hospitality-sector support.
“Bingo has been a mainstay of Scottish cultural life since the 1960s; many of our predominantly female customers see [it] as their main opportunity for a good night out, and a place they feel safe to visit.
“It is devasting to say that the future of this great cultural institution is at risk of collapse – some bingo clubs, particularly small independent operators, simply cannot survive this pandemic without additional financial support and may have no choice but to close their doors for good.”
Please, if you have a moment, send an email to the Scottish Government. The campaign webpage can be viewed here: https://bingoismylifeline.co.uk/scotland/