Select Committee on Health Written Evidence

Memorandum by the Bingo Association (SP 48)

  1.  Bingo, with its 525 clubs which we represent and its three million regular players, has a unique place in the gambling sector. Licensed bingo clubs form an integral part of the social fabric of communities nationwide. In very many small towns, they provide the only leisure activity where women, who comprise about 75% of bingo players, can go by themselves in total safety.

  2.  If a ban is to be imposed, our members believe it should be total. A smokefree policy should be based on the principle of equal treatment across all sectors. If the basis for a ban is health-related, this is the only logical position to adopt, and is consistent with the approach taken in Scotland, Northern Ireland, and likely in Wales. The proposal to exempt specific types of clubs from the general ban defies logic because employees in exempt clubs are equally at risk from secondhand smoke as are employees in other types of clubs. According to the Government's own document a partial ban is likely to lead to a 40% reduction in benefits compared with a total ban. The partial Regulatory Impact Assessment does not seem to have allowed for the displacement of smokers from non-smoking venues to those where it is still permitted.

  3.  The proposed exemptions, which would not include licensed bingo clubs, would simply lead to massive displacement as our players moved to clubs and pubs where smoking was still permitted. These premises can legally offer bingo up to a threshold of £2,000 per week, which is not subject to any form of taxation, and would provide a parallel gaming environment. The Government has failed to address the issue of displacement in the Regulatory Impact Assessment. Licensed bingo clubs would suffer significant economic hardship and this is highly likely to lead to the closure of many smaller clubs which will deprive large numbers of our customers of the opportunities and enjoyment provided by commercial bingo.

  4.  Any form of smoking ban will have a significant economic impact on licensed bingo clubs, particularly since nearly 50% of our players smoke, much higher than the proportion of the population as a whole. The industry recognises the Government's position on the health benefits of a ban, and accepts that one is inevitable.

  5.  A widely-applied smokefree policy should have very limited exceptions, which should not include the hospitality and leisure industries. However, if the policy is to include the wider-ranging exemptions contemplated in Option 4 in the White Paper then commercial bingo should be included in those exemptions. To maintain the current range of exemptions would be unfair and anti-competitive.

  6.  The proposals contained in the Choosing Health White Paper are a confused mixture of policies attempting to keep all sectors on board and reflecting a vague notion of "public opinion" but in practice discriminating against some premises in favour of others. The proposals will produce a law applying differently in England to the rest of the United Kingdom.

November 2005

previous page contents next page

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2005
Prepared 19 December 2005