The Department of Culture, Media and Sport’s (DCMS) long-awaited “good news” for bingo operators to increase the number of lucrative, high-paying slots in bingo halls, has been slammed by opposition MPs.
Sports minister Gerry Sutcliffe’s announcement last week that the Government is to increase the number of high-payout betting machines in bingo halls from four to eight was branded “pathetic” by Liberal Democrat DCMS spokesman Don Foster.
The move is widely regarded as too little, too late for the beleagured bingo hall industry, which has been hit hard by both the smoking ban and the removal of the gaming machines, some of which will now be restored, that followed the implementation of the Gambling Act 2005 in September last year.
Conservative Shadow gambling minister Tobias Ellwood says the DCMS announcement comes “after months of dithering and hollow promises” and is a “massive missed opportunity” which demonstrates a “clear lack of understanding of the evidence”. Ellwood says the Government’s support for the industry is “pitiful”.
The Bingo Association, the trade body representing bingo hall operators, says it “welcomes” the proposals. It is understood the association did not want to appear “churlish” about Sutcliffe’s proposals, even though they fall far short of what the industry sought.
The industry has been lobbying the Government on the issue of what is effectively double taxation on bingo clubs and this continues to be the Bingo Association’s priority. Sources say while the Government’s stance on bingo has dismayed many operators it is thought that Sutcliffe, who became Sports Minister a year ago, is broadly more supportive, and may help the industry to tackle the Treasury over tax.