UK bingo operators praise tax break

The UK bingo industry has applauded the Chancellor George Osbourne's decision to halve the duty on land-based bingo halls last week.

The tax will be reduced from 20% to 10% after the Chancellor was convinced this 'softer' form of gambling needed a break.

He acknowledged that the number of bingo halls had "plummeted by three-quarters over the last 30 years" and said that by "cutting the tax that they pay, we are backing an industry that is so much more than the sum of its parts".

People across the industry have warmly welcomed the decision. Miles Baron, chief executive of The Bingo Association, said the sector is "delighted" by the "fantastic news" which means the industry can now modernise, invest in new premises and create jobs.

Nick Harding, chief executive of Paesepe, which owns the Beacon Bingo chain, said: "Millions of UK bingo players will be raising a glass to Osborne over the coming weeks.

"Reducing the unfair tax burden which the previous government had imposed on UK Bingo plc means that clubs all over the country will now be able to start to reinvest and provide their players with the modern facilities they deserve."

The move follows the closure of many UK bingo halls after the smoking ban, re-regulation of machines and what the industry have called excessive taxation.

While many other gambling activities are taxed at 15%, bingo was subject to 20% tax. The industry claims this resulted in the closure of bingo clubs and subsequent job losses.

Two campaigns against the much-criticised tax were launched, Boost Bingo and Back Bingo, the former generating support from 50 MPs and a third of a million players who wanted to save their game. The Boost Bingo petition was eventually delivered directly to the Chancellor at his Downing Street residence.

They originally pushed for a 5% reduction but have even more cause to celebrate after last week's announcement which reduced the tax even further. Already the industry is making plans to make the most of the coming boost.

Ian Burke, chief executive of The Rank Group, said the cut "created a basis for renewed investment and innovation". The firm, which operates 97 Mecca Bingo clubs nationwide, plan to open three new bingo halls and modernise their programme with at least £6m capital investment over three years. They expect this will secure existing jobs and create 200 new ones, and have also committed to lowering their prices and offering bigger prizes.

Gala Bingo will invest £5m in opening a new club in Southamption, creating 50 new jobs. Plans to close nine clubs will be scrapped rather than the clubs themselves, saving a further 200 jobs. The firm are also investing £40m on club refurbishments.

Independent operators Crown Bingo will also be able to save one club from closure.

Online bingo operators are not so lucky however as they will be hit with a new 15% point of consumption tax, also confirmed in the budget.

Emma Rumney

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