There was a time when every town, village and hamlet in the Welsh countryside had a busy bingo hall which attracted players of all different ages. Not just a place to go to earn some much needed money these halls also provided a social outlet in a region of Britain which has suffered its share of economic knock-backs over the decades. Recently released figures revealed that almost a third of struggling bingo clubs in Wales have been forced to shut their doors since 2006.
While more and more Britons sign up to online bingo sites it’s estimated that the number of players pulling up a seat at bingo halls have halved from six to three million.
The decision by Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne to whack the industry with a slot machine duty of 20% was the final nail in the coffin of many bingo clubs in Wales.
The revenue earned from these machines often provided bingo clubs with just enough money to keep the doors open.
Miles Baron who is chief executive of the Bingo Association, which represents the owners of 400 of Britain’s 467 halls said the future is unclear for the land-based sector.
“The dilemma that is facing the industry is that the tax regime for gambling is a bit of a muddle” he said.
“Bingo taxation is capped at around 20% of gross profits which is a lot higher than other forms of gambling, which have around 15%.”
In 2006 there were 34 halls operating in Wales. Eleven have now closed their doors for good.
These were in Swansea, Holyhead, Pontypridd, Ebbw Vale, Porth, Neath, Flint, Abertridwr, Aberdare, Rhyl and Conwy.
Further closures are expected in Milford Haven and Pembroke Dock within coming weeks.