Triple blow sees Gala call time on Birmingham bingo hall
A Birmingham bingo hall is set to close next week, hit by a triple blow from the smoking ban, increased taxation and new gambling laws banning big jackpot machines.
Seventeen jobs will go at the Gala Bingo club in Great Barr, which is set to close its doors to players on June 23.
The club owner, Gala Coral, is currently in consultation with employees to discuss relocating staff to neighbouring clubs in the area.
Gala Coral said external factors were behind the closure, citing the smoking ban, the scrapping of big jackpot gaming machines and the Chancellor’s decision not to relieve the industry of double taxation.
Gala, which is mainly owned by private equity firms Candover, Cinven and Permira, is one of the UK’s biggest operators of licensed betting shops, bingo halls and casinos.
The smoking ban has hit bingo halls harder than other leisure industries as a disproportionately high number of bingo players are smokers.
In September last year, the government closed a loophole in gambling legislation that had allowed £500 jackpots machines – called Section 21 machines – to proliferate in bingo halls.
Gala, like other bingo hall operators, was forced to remove the big jackpot machines under the new Gambling Act.
Bingo Association communications manager Steve Baldwin said: “No other sector in gambling saw its entitlement to machines reduce, some sectors saw their entitlement to machines increase.”
The bingo industry has also suffered from tax laws meaning bingo companies, unlike other gambling sectors, pay Gross Profits Tax as well as VAT.
Calls from the bingo industry for the government to scrap VAT on bingo products went unheeded in the Chancellor’s Spring budget.
Bingo Association chief executive, Paul Talboys called the move “a slap in the face for bingo players across the country.”
SVG Capital, an investor in Gala Coral co-owner Permira, said in March that Gala Coral had almost halved in value in the preceding year.
Mr Baldwin said: “The industry has seen a significant number of clubs close – 37 in 2007 and more have closed this year.
“Jobs are being lost and communities are losing a key social service. “
Bingo is an important social facility, not just a business.”
* Bingo is one of the UK’s most popular leisure activities – more than 8.5 million people played bingo last year and 17,000 people are employed in the sector.