Ian Burke

This week at Bingo Hideout we are proud to present a new feature on our website that we hope you'll love as much as the rest of the site. With so much going on in the world of online bingo and live bingo at the moment given the taxation increase and the level of competition in online bingo, we have been looking into conducting interviews with some industry chiefs. We thought it would be an interesting insight into the side of bingo that we never see.

We kick off this exciting new feature with an interview with Ian Burke CEO of Mecca Bingo. As one of the people feeling the effects of the major changes to live bingo and now within the company itself, we thought picking his brain would be very interesting to our members. So, let's get on with hearing what Mr Burke had to say on taxation and other current issues affecting both live and online bingo. Take it away Mr Burke..

1. At Bingo Hideout, we write about matters involving live bingo as much as that of online bingo, and we have been very interested in your 'I'm Backing Bingo' manifesto. Do you think the recent awareness raised as a result of the budget can turn the policy of double taxation around?

This isn’t about double taxation as the Government has removed VAT from bingo. This is all about a fair deal for bingo as the proposed increase to 22% makes it the most heavily taxed form of gaming in the UK –betting shops, football pools and on-line gaming are all taxed at 15%. We very much hope that the Government will realise how unfair it is to penalise a pastime that is enjoyed by million of people, many of whom are women and /or older people. Over 40,000 of our customers and employees have felt so strongly about this issue that they have written to their local MPs asking for their support to keep bingo tax at 15%.

2. Your campaign to 'Save our bingo' attracted a lot of media attention as a result of both the petition and the song, what impact do you think the campaign had for live bingo for the long term?

We were delighted by the overwhelming public support we received as a result of the campaign but very disappointed that it fell on deaf ears as far as the Government is concerned as without prior consultation, they increased bingo tax to 22% in the budget, making Bingo the most heavily taxed form of gaming in the UK.

3. How did the presentation of the petition to the Prime Minister go?

We were delighted that one of our customers felt so passionately about the bingo tax issue that they set up a Downing Street petition against this unfair tax. The petition has already received over 1,500 signatures and we are hoping through our Fair Deal for Bingo campaign, that it will receive many more.

4. Getting David Miliband on board recently calling numbers at a game was a real photo opportunity and must have felt like a coup for live bingo. Do you think you will invite other high profile callers to your halls to help with the campaign?

In the past we have welcomed other ministers to our club including Hillary Benn, Alec Salmond and even Alistair Darling. All of our clubs have invited their local MPs to visit their clubs. We are delighted by the number who have already taken up the opportunity and look forward to welcoming many more.

5. We have also heard that you are a real fitness fanatic and have taken on the Cape Argus Pick n Pay Cyde Tour in South Africa. This tour is advertised as being the largest timed cycling event, and it has been reported you completed it in five hours. Congratulations on completing in such a short time and for raising so much money! We know that as a company, Mecca raises funds for Whizz Kids and funds both powered and manual wheel chairs to aid mobility in disabled children, and we know that a lot of the money you raised cycling was donated to this cause. What is special about this charity to you and your employees?

I am proud to say that we have raised over £350k for Whizz Kidz so far and I would like to say a very big thank you to our employees and customers for making this happen. It’s fantastic to see what a difference this money can make to young people’s lives – we’ve already been able to provide 60 children with mobility equipment they wouldn’t otherwise be able to afford as it isn’t provided on the NHS. Even better our employees and customers appreciate the fact that the money they have raised goes towards helping a child in their local area..

6. Lastly, we loved the Bingo Buddy competition at the Hideout, how did you come up with this idea, and what criteria did you have for a winner?

I’m glad you liked our Bingo Buddy competition –we were delighted by our customers’ response to it and hope to run it again next year. It was a great opportunity for us to show our customers how much they mean to us and to celebrate all the great friendships that have been made at Mecca. It was very difficult choosing our winners but the key was all about celebrating true friendships.