Bingo halls hit by the effects of the smoking ban and increased take-up of online gambling are turning to high value slots to stay afloat.
Venues in the English Midlands say mini-amusement arcades within the halls — officially called Adult Gaming Centres — may be their last hope.
The first of the new arcades is expected to open in Wednesbury’s Mecca Bingo Hall. Their application asks for up to four high-value slot machines to be installed — with possible cash payouts of around £500 — in a new area separated off from the rest of the premises and under special supervision.
Concern over the growing number of similar “split” applications has been expressed by the Gambling Commission which is putting together a report to be published in September.
One bingo hall manager, Jez Marron, said he had plans for up to EIGHT gaming machines but insisted bingo facilities would NOT be reduced. “We have capacity for 1,300 in the bingo area but we now get only about 550 players,” he said. “Figures are down on last year and a lot of it is down to the smoking ban.”
Earlier this week, a gambling staffs union warned that online gaming could see massive layoffs in the geographical gambling business, with bingo likely to be the first casualty.