Independent bingo halls in Scotland are set to receive much-needed funding to assist them through the pandemic-induced lockdown. Bingo venues in the northeast will be able to apply for one-off grants of up to £50,000.
The decision came after Troup councillor Mark Findlater contacted Kate Forbes, the Cabinet secretary for finance, urging her to approve funding for ailing bingo halls. What highlighted the problem was that bingo halls in Fraserburgh and 18 bingo halls in other cities, including the ones in Buckie and Elgin, have received zero funding from the Scottish government. The situation was so dire that the Bingo Association in Scotland launched the “Bingo Is My Lifeline” campaign to draw attention to the problem.
After the decision was made public, the chief executive officer of the Bingo Association in Scotland, Miles Baron, stated: “As a result of thousands of bingo players responding to our call for support, the Bingo Association in Scotland has recently been informed that our ‘Bingo Is My Lifeline’ campaign has been successful, and all licensed bingo clubs in Scotland will receive a one-off grant in recognition of the challenges caused by their sustained closure over the last year.”
Financial assistance for bingo halls couldn’t have come at a better time. According to a new roadmap for exiting the lockdown, indoor bingo venues and cinemas will remain closed until May 17, 2021. Bingo halls have already spent most of the 14-month pandemic under lock and key, severely impacting their revenue. Many people turned to online and mobile bingo platforms during this time. As a result, lottery ticket sales were in decline throughout the pandemic.
While bingo staff costs are covered by the UK’s furlough scheme, maintenance costs are not. Newly-announced grants will surely help venues push through until reopening.
Councillor Findlater pointed out the importance of bingo as a social activity, which often overshadows the game itself. He stated that “This funding is a welcome U-turn after a year with little support for this industry.” Mr Findlater also called for “a bit of fairness” to decrease social isolation, which especially impacts the elderly.