This summer saw the long-awaited opening of the Club 3000 Bingo Blackpool, a state of the art, purpose built bingo hall among the grandest in the country.
With millions spent on the venue, in charge is Sean Connolly, a local man with three decades of experience in the UK bingo industry. A well known and much loved character in the bingo scene, Sean has seen it all!.
Bingo Daily got the opportunity to pose a few questions to Sean about managing the Blackpool venue and the bingo world in general.
BD: Sean, before we talk about the eagerly anticipated opening of the Club 3000 Bingo Blackpool, of which you are the general manager, I want to hear about your incredible journey in the UK bingo world so far. Is it 35 years and 24 bingo clubs? When and where did you have your first ever bingo experience, and when did you know that bingo would be central to your life? Talk us through your journey.
After graduating from Polytechnic, I saw an advert in the local paper for Trainee managers for Coral Social Clubs. I knew little about bingo. So, before my interview, I paid a visit to the bingo club located in the Coral Island complex in Blackpool. I was amazed how busy and exciting the atmosphere was. I was taken on as a trainee Manager at the Coral Social Club in Preston & knew straight away that I had found my vocation.
BD: Now, you're a Fleetwood man who has been working all over the UK for 30 years . Blackpool is very much a homecoming for you. Was that the reason you took the position? Does it make it more special than other clubs you've worked in?
I took the position because I knew the potential that opening in a town like Blackpool offered. When I started in bingo there were 9 bingo clubs on the Fylde Coast. When The Empire closed in 2020, this took the number of clubs in the area down to just 2. From working all over the UK, I was aware how many customers visited Blackpool and played bingo when they were there. The new club is incredibly special. At the age of 57, I thought I may be a bit too old to take on such a challenge, but the Company has given me a fabulous support team, and Brian Fraser the Founder of Club 3000 Bingo persuaded Mike Travis out of retirement to be my House Manager. His experience has been invaluable.
BD: Onto Club 3000 Bingo Blackpool, talk us through the opening night. You had a few Corrie stars there and it seemed an amazing night had by all, but were you able to enjoy it or was there just too much going on?
I thoroughly enjoyed the opening night. The key to it was all the preparation we did beforehand for it to run smoothly. My area Manager Patrick Brignall had produced some amazing graphics and we had rehearsed the ceremony at least 20 times in the run up to the opening. There was some amazing support from family & friends at the opening night and of course having some Coronation Street actors along made it more exciting for our customers. One former colleague said I looked very relaxed which I took as a compliment!
BD: Now, a lot of money has been spent on this venue by Club 3000 Bingo. Do you feel more pressure because of the level of investment and because it is new than you would elsewhere?
There is always pressure on you when a new club opens, as you want it to be a success not just for yourself and the team but also for the whole Company. I was confident with the substantial investment in recruitment, training and marketing and the experience we have in opening new clubs , it was always going to be a success.
BD: what is the make-up of your visitors? Have you had a lot of tourists over the summer visit the club, or is it mainly the locals? And from the locals, what sort of crowd comes to your club? Older, younger, mixed?
There is a huge appetite for bingo. Whilst we've had a lot of visits from visiting customers, the majority of the custom is local from the Fylde coast. What has surprised me has been the amount of younger people attending at night.
BD: Whilst other retail bingo chains and most independents have suffered terribly from the COVID-19 lockdowns and the UK has lost around 30-40% of all its Bingo clubs over the last few years, the story of Club 3000 Bingo has been one of success – snapping up closing clubs, opening new ones. What are Club 3000 Bingo doing right that others are not, and what is it like to work for Club 3000?
I think the key to Club 3000's success is being simple & completely transparent in what we offer. We also invest heavily in our clubs and facilities within them. In the last 8 years we have invested £15m in refurbishments alone and this excludes the investment in our Blackpool opening. We are planning refurbs in our Mansfield, and Old Trafford clubs in the next few months alongside a £2M refurb in Cardiff starting next month. We are also refurbishing our flagship Coatbridge club soon and spending £5.5m on a brand new club in Edinburgh which will open next year.
We also want all our customers regulars and new, to have a great night out and feel part of our community. I love working for Club 3000. It's bingo how it should be.
BD: Lastly, after so many closures, what do you think needs to happen for the retail bingo scene in the UK? Can it flourish again? If so, how?
I think bingo has a real future. The beauty of the game is its simplicity, it is a fun, exciting game within a safe environment and part of the local community.
Ben has been an massive bingo enthusiast and fan since playing at the seaside as a kid. Dedicated to bringing you the latest and best bingo news from the UK