Alistair Darling

Some might call it highway robbery as there was no good news in Wednesday’s budget for anyone, least of all the already struggling high street bingo halls up and down the country. Alistair Darling (a misnomer if ever there was one!) decided to punish bingo halls still further by increasing the bingo duty payable from 15 per cent to 22 per cent. Admittedly the Chancellor had removed the unfair VAT on playing bingo, however with one foul swoop he wiped any benefits that might have been received completely out by raising the gross profit tax.

The bingo industry has been campaigning relentlessly to have the double taxation removed from bingo, and it was at first seeming like a massive turn around by the Government when they announced the removal of the VAT. The shock decision by the Exchequer to increase the bingo duty is expected by analysts to cost bingo companies a lot more in the long run than the VAT that was previously charged.

From a bingo industry perspective it seems particularly harsh, as already bingo halls are closing due to high taxation, the recession, smoking ban and the removal of high pay out machines which has resulted in diminishing player numbers. Around 5,000 bingo industry jobs have been lost since the smoking ban was first introduced; with still further expected as more and more bingo halls suffer. Alistair Darling and the Government have certainly decided that they have little comprehension of the valuable service that bingo halls provide to local communities, as they seem intent on wiping the humble bingo hall from the High Street. The share price for big names like Rank dropped sharply after the budget details were released.

Darling says Stand and Deliver to the bingo industry or should that be Mr Turpin!