Bingo Clubs have been one of the hardest hit sectors during the pandemic, with clubs having to remain closed until May 17th at the earliest due to Government COVID restrictions. Since March 2020, 39 bingo clubs (15% of the total pre-COVID) have had to close their doors for good across the country.
The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) has set up a £1.57 billion pot to support Arts Council England, the Heritage Fund, Historic England, and the British Film Institute. While cinemas, museums and theatres are able to access this extra funding on top of other forms of COVID assistance, even with current support, bingo clubs struggle to cover the costs of bills, rent and remaining employment costs. The Government should give the same lifeline it has provided to the arts for bingo which is a great British working-class pastime, enjoyed all across the country.
The Scottish Government has recently confirmed that each operator will receive £50,000 per venue using the Strategic Framework Business Fund system and the Welsh Government has supported bingo clubs in Wales with similar amounts of top-up funding.
In total, it is estimated that bingo clubs have lost over £269.3 million in revenue in the past twelve months, with the smaller, independent, clubs facing particular hardship.
The Bingo Association has created a petition to call on DCMS to provide extra “top-up” funding which is much needed and will ensure that bingo clubs will be able to successfully reopen in May.
Dave Robson, Operations Director of BJs Bingo Club in Leigh said: “Making it through to reopening on 17th May will be a challenge for our bingo club. Bingo is an absolute lifeline for so many of our customers, who have experienced real loneliness through the pandemic, it provides them with a safe space to socialise.
“It would be devastating for our local area if we couldn’t be there for them come the 17th of May. I don’t understand why the Government has decided that one form of entertainment is more important to save than another”.
Miles Baron, Chief Executive Officer at The Bingo Association said: “Bingo clubs have been entertaining a largely working-class, female demographic since the 1960s and contributes significantly, not only to our local economy, but also to our local communities where they provide a social activity which contributes significantly to combating the social isolation of many of our customers.
“It is therefore extremely difficult to explain to our valued customers, and our employees, why their pastime and job is seemingly of less importance than other cultural venues, many of whom have received significant funding from DCMS.
“All we are asking is that the Government levels the playing field and grants us the same support that our friends and colleagues in cinemas, museums and theatres have all received”.