A Doncaster MP is hoping for full houses at the borough’s bingo halls.
MP Rosie Winterton dropped into Gala bingo on Wheatley Hall Road to discuss the future of the industry with general manager Chris Greville and chief executive of The Bingo Association Miles Baron.
She heard that the rate of tax levied on bingo clubs – currently 20 per cent, compared with 15 per cent for other gambling outlets – has been labelled a a ‘bingo tax’ by industry chiefs.
Mr Baron said that more people were choosing to play online due to the current economic climate, adding: “We are the only gaming industry with 20 per cent it just doesn’t help, the number of bingo halls is shutting at an alarming rate.
“However, as many people are playing now as they were years ago. In the last few years it certainly hasn’t gone down. The average age of bingo players has gone down too. It’s the frequency of their visits, people who used to visit once a week are coming every fortnight.”
“I don’t think anyone can argue that the growth of the industry online hasn’t affected us and we will never get back to the levels we were at pre smoking ban.
“The main issue at the moment is taxation, we think we have a very unfair playing field.”
The pastime currently makes a £200 million contribution to the Exchequer every year.
Miss Winterton said: “The value of bingo halls should not be underestimated as they play an important role within communities across the country, providing a friendly, safe and social environment that is rarely provided elsewhere.”
Bingo player Katherine Stewart, 75, of Pinewood Avenue, Armthorpe said she has been playing bingo for some 30 years: “It’s a good way to meet people, amd enjoy yourselves.”
Susan Lightfoot, 50, of Evelyn Avenue, Intake said: “ I’ve made lots of friends, it’s sociable. I don’t have the internet.”