Bingo clubs across the UK are now under threat of closure thanks to a new slot machine tax brought in by Chancellor George Osborne last month. The new duty will represent a total of around £9 million in extra taxes – but many clubs are reporting that they will not survive the first round of taxing, and the effort to bring in more tax money from the industry could well prove to be futile if that is the case.
The land based bingo industry is already ailing as more and more players go online, with more than one hundred and fifty clubs having closed down since 2005. The addition of slot machine games has been used as a measure to make sure that there is something extra to appeal to those players who are still going down to the clubs, but now owners are saying that there are around one hundred and seventy clubs which could go down the drain thanks to the new tax levels. These are the clubs which are making less than £70,000 a year, and for whom a higher tax level will mean a drop in profits that is insupportable.
Miles Baron is from the Bingo Association, which represents the owners of four hundred out of the four hundred and sixty seven halls which are still in business. He said, “The level of tax is critical to the survival of many clubs.” Industry leaders had made an appeal to the Chancellor before the budget was released, pointing out that the bingo industry is one of the highest taxed of any other forms of gambling, and as an employer of thirteen thousand people in the UK a tougher tax could mean yet more unemployment. Their argument is that the rate of tax they are paying should be at fifteen per cent, which is the same as it is for online bingo sites and bookmakers, since taxing land based bingo any more than that is unfair and has no real founding in logic. Baron added: “This would have a positive impact on bingo, for customers, operators and the Exchequer.”