The Magazine for the Bingo Industry
Autumn 2021 Issue 2 - £6
Delivering Apple Bingo
IN THIS ISSUE
#sgweek2021 IGA Game of the Year 2021 revealed New clubs, new looks! Party Bingo: BA at this year’s Party Conferences
vouche r for grab up s!
Enter o wordsuer NEW compet arch ition
The No.1 association for bingo Shaping policy Developing business Driving the industry agenda The association for all things bingo - working with senior management and operators for more than two decades - successfully promoting and developing the interests of all bingo operators. For industry news, comment and information on the benefits of membership, visit www.bingo-association.co.uk Call 01582 860921 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Introduction Welcome to Bingo Connect, the magazine for the bingo industry in the UK, and the official magazine of The Bingo Association. Published in hard copy and digital format (available on our website at www.bingoconnect.co.uk), Bingo Connect covers all things bingo, from news of regulatory development and new products, to industry profiles and charity support. Bingo is at the heart of the community and Bingo Connect is at the heart of the bingo industry. Bingo Connect magazine is published three times a year: Autumn, Spring and Summer, with www.bingoconnect.co.uk updated regularly with the very latest stories. You can register your email address online to ensure you receive the latest alerts and updates. Bingo Connect is about and for the bingo sector and we want to hear your news and stories: you can share them with us by emailing: email@example.com We hope you enjoy our latest edition – happy reading.
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Contents Autumn 2021
Miles Baron, Chief Executive, The Bingo Association
News round up
What has 1,400 seats, 40 staff and 1,000 free parking spaces? Club 3000 Wigan! GamCare’s Hayley Smith talks about the Safer Gambling Standard and the Gambling Act review
Elaine Graham, GM at Buzz Bingo Kingsbury Road, Birmingham
ICE 2022 an opportunity to regroup and rebuild for land-based bingo
Natalie Rogerson, Office Controller at Mecca Bingo Leicester
Majestic Bingo scoop Game of the Year with Don’t Find the 9
/ Autumn 2021
Leo Leisure take pride in their recently launched Weymouth club
South London’s newest club Apple Bingo is all heart
No jab, no job? Alec Coulson of Taylor Walton talks about compulsory vaccinations Bingo is a great escape, but you can’t say that in your promotion
42 Publisher The Bingo Association™ www.bingo-association.co.uk
Editorial Editor Miles Baron firstname.lastname@example.org
Managing Editor Steve Baldwin email@example.com
Production and Advertising Sales Steve Pearce Tel: +44 (0) 117 957 5400 firstname.lastname@example.org
The Editorial Policy
14 Competition time 27
The views and opinions expressed in Bingo Connect remain principally the views of the contributors and do not necessarily reflect those of the editor or publishers. The publishers wish to avoid inaccuracies and whilst every precaution has been taken to ensure that information contained in this publication is accurate, no liability is accepted by the editor or publishers for errors or omissions however caused. Unless otherwise stated, articles appearing in this publication remain the copyright of the publishers and may not be reproduced in any form without the publisher’s written consent.
Eyes down for a bingo themed wordsearch
Bingo in pictures 42
Past & Present: Bingo’s seaside connections
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Miles Baron, Chief Executive, The Bingo Association
ear supporters and advocates of land based Bingo, welcome to the second edition of Bingo Connect the new voice of the Industry. As I write the land based Bingo sector is fighting hard to regain pre Covid levels of business. Progress is slow, there are still many customers who are reluctant to venture out particularly in the afternoons. Year to date trading volumes look to be around 28% down v February 2020 however that gap is slowly closing week by week. Income is closer to 20% down but these estimates are very approximate. Encouragingly the best trading week since reopening on 17 May occurred week commencing 27 September 2021. The previous strongest week was the week commencing 26 July 2021 demonstrating how well the Industry got behind the first ever National Bingo Day. Despite these challenges it was fantastic to see Club 3000 open their new club in Wigan, Nikki and Tim Clark reopen the old Buzz club in Bridlington as Regal Bingo, and Leo Leisure’s recent opening of their club in Weymouth. This is in addition to the successful recent opening of two ‘hybrid bingo’ premises in Perry Bar and Edmonton Green by Shipley Estates and Amuse respectively. The BA focus is to continue to engage around a number of issues connected to the 2005 Gambling Act Review, not just looking to avoid the unintended consequences of any decisions but where possible to look for opportunities for positive change in areas such as cashless payments, product flexibility and the 20/80 allocation of B3 gaming machines. The decision mid review however to replace John Whittingdale with Chris Philp is unhelpful and it feels that the industry is having to start once again in putting its arguments forward to DCMS. The BA will continue to drive campaigns and awareness across all three governments to acquire additional support for hard pressed businesses. At the same time the BA will build on existing dialogue with HM Treasury to try and ensure that any revenue raising initiatives in future budget announcements do / Autumn 2021
not inadvertently affect Licensed Bingo premises. To this end the BA have met with and made a pre-budget submission to HMT with the support of EY. Finally, as committed to at the recent BA AGM, I started a strategic review of the BA by launching an anonymous questionnaire to our 55 member operating companies. The questionnaire was completed by over 50% of these members and we thank those who took the time to give us their thoughts and opinions about the future direction of their Trade Body. I fed back a summary of the findings to the BA board on September 23rd along with my recommendations and I am sure this will be the subject of further discussion at future meetings particularly once the White Paper on the 2005 Gambling Act is produced later this year. Following feedback from the first edition of Bingo Connect we have made a few enhancements to this edition to hopefully make it an even better read. If you have any thoughts, likes or suggestions please do let us know. Many thanks as always for all your support
The latest news from the Bingo Association’s Chief Executive Miles Baron
Miles Baron Chief Executive
News round up
‘Clubingo’: new brand shakes up bingo Read the logo too quickly and you’ll think that Clubingo is all about UK dance music, but it’s actually a whole lot more.
aunched in July 2021, Clubingo™ is the new entertainment brand created by the team at Majestic Bingo and promises to deliver live music events, crazy bingo nights, comedy clubs as well as showcasing top DJ’s and artists. Speaking about the new brand, Stuart Booth, Head of Events, said “We’re delighted with our creation, and believe the Clubingo™ brand will be a huge success. We premiered it on the 31st July at our Mansfield and Barrow in Furness Clubs with the ‘Big Night Out’ which included tribute acts, a new live hosted crazy fun hour of bingo games with a twist, and then a chance to get down as some classic tunes were played for an hour of dance.
“With a late night finish for everyone to grab a few drinks from the bar, it also gave everyone a chance to grab a cheeky shot from our mobile bartender walking the floor! Whilst this is a totally different concept for these two Clubs, we’re still a bingo club at heart, so the bingo session itself ran as usual until 9pm when we switched to presenting Clubingo™.” On the launch night, Clubingo™ also announced to the crowd its first headline act of Ultrabeat featuring Ian Redman (Famous for ‘Pretty Green Eyes’), that will run in Barrow on 16th October and Mansfield on 23rd October, coupled with brand new bingo show ‘No Limits Bingo’, - think Clubland meets Bingo and you’ll get the idea. December will also sees 5ive, one of the biggest 90s boybands, perform live at the two locations. Stuart also told Bingo Connect that the two locations were just the start and they will soon move into other Majestic Clubs across England and Wales, as they scale up their delivery of quality led events that have something for everyone.
Mark Jepp, Managing Director, Majestic Bingo said, “I jumped at the chance to progress the Clubingo™ brand when we were looking at ways to diversify and promote bingo as a fun night out with great bingo running through its DNA. “The towns of Mansfield and Barrow are crying out for a quality entertainment venue with live acts, and it’s a great opportunity for people to have some much needed fun. We want bingo to appeal to everyone, and believe our new brand, which is an integral part of the Majestic Bingo Family, will run in harmony with our traditional bingo sessions and encourage new customers to give bingo (albeit with a difference) a try. “We’re not here to compete with others that are running bingo raves or similar: Clubingo™ simply puts Majestic’s own unique spin on the world of bingo with a bit of attitude. I particularly liked seeing the two customers who won the Slush Puppy Machine both twerking like mad so the crowd could decide who was worthy of the coveted prize!” The Clubingo™ website is live with details of a number of other events planned at both Mansfield and Barrow in Furness on the last Saturday of each month.
For further details visit www.clubingo.co.uk
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News round up
Buzz Bingo opens new club in Castleford Buzz Bingo has opened a new club in Castleford, after purchasing the former Majestic Bingo club. The new club, which is located on Albion Street just one and a half miles from the current Buzz Bingo site, opened on 5th August with a formal opening night celebration on Saturday 7th.
o mark the occasion local legend and loyal customer Dorothy Masterman M.B.E did the honours of cutting the red ribbon. Dorothy has been playing bingo in Castleford for well over 20 years and was awarded the M.B.E for her commitment to the Probation Service after spending more than 30 years working in the Leeds area. Commenting on the day Dorothy said, “What an honour to be invited to formally cut the ribbon on the new club! Bingo has been a big part of my life in Castleford for many years and it’s a big part of our local community. I’m so glad we’re still going to have somewhere to play bingo in the town, I used to come here with my mum back in the day and love being able to see friends and neighbours over a game of bingo.” To mark Buzz Bingo’s sponsorship of Super League team Castleford Tigers, current First Team player for the Tigers, Grant Millington also attended in the afternoon, meeting locals and calling a game of bingo. The Castleford club, which was operated by Majestic Bingo under its Ritz Bingo name, has been closed since November 2020 and was not going to reopen. The purchase of the club by Buzz Bingo means Castleford residents still have a place to play bingo and can now enjoy the refurbished club. All employees who had previously been working at the Majestic club were offered another position within the Buzz Bingo business, either at the new location or at Buzz clubs in the surrounding area, including Leeds and Wakefield. The existing Buzz club on Park Street will remain open for the / Autumn 2021
foreseeable future. Peter Brigden, Chief Retail Officer at Buzz Bingo said, “Our Castleford club is a thriving and popular club in the local community, so we’re delighted that we’re able to support the bingo community with another local location for them to come and enjoy bingo. The venue has gone through some fairly
drastic refurbishments too including a fresh coat of paint, updating lots of the furnishings inside and a total kitchen refit. We’ve also fitted a lift and an accessible toilet to ensure the club can accommodate wheelchair users and those with reduced mobility.
News round up
Club 3000 opens its doors in Wigan On Friday 30th July, Club 3000 opened the doors of its brand-new venue at Robin Park, Wigan for the first time.
he new venue has seen £2.3 million invested by Club 3000 Bingo, transforming it with an innovative design and layout that provides customers with a first-class bingo experience. The new club seats nearly 1400 customers, employs 40 staff and has 1000 free car parking spaces. The venue was officially opened by actor Mikey North, who plays Gary Windass in Coronation Street and to mark the occasion customers to the ticket only opening event were treated to a variety of entertainment, including a magician and a steel band. A wide variety of bingo games were played, with each customer presented with some bubbly, chocolates and an engraved champagne glass as a gift. Brian Fraser the owner of Club 3000 said: “We were thrilled to launch our newest club here in Wigan, the club demonstrates how we lead the way as a modern-day bingo operator. We welcomed all our new customers to the Club 3000 family. It was fantastic to see so many customers celebrating with us on the night”. Karen Gilligan, General Manager commented: “The opening was a fabulous evening the atmosphere was fantastic, I was delighted to see so many customers at the event and would like to thank them for their support and my team who made it all happen on the night!” Club 3000 venues have innovative designs, layouts and features, providing customers with a first-class bingo experience. As the third largest operator in the bingo industry, Club 3000 operate an impressive 21 clubs in England, Scotland, and Wales.
“ We welcomed all our new customers to the Club 3000 family. It was fantastic to see so many customers celebrating with us on the night.”
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News round up
The Bingo Pavilion - ICE 2022
he Bingo Association members have been regular attendees of ICE at The Excel Centre in London’s Docklands for many years and The Bingo Pavilion, which made its debut in 2017, has become an ICE destination. The Association, with the support of members and Clarion, has established the Pavilion as the key ‘net-working space’ for members and the industry at ICE, which has been sadly missed for the past two years.
Following Clarion’s confirmation of ICE 2022 (1st-3rd February) the ICE and Association teams immediately started planning 2022’s Bingo Pavilion, which is taking shape and will be home to many key suppliers for ICE 2022, plus Bingo Connect. Association members exhibiting at ICE on the Bingo Pavilion are offered a preferential rate on the rack rate for space. If you would like to exhibit on the Pavilion, please contact the Association.
BingoPlus on the up!
Wexel Gaming’s Bingo Plus product goes from strength to strength, as the company also adds to its senior team with a new appointment. The team at Wexel Gaming have been extremely busy in recent months adding further enhancements to their Bingo Plus network, which provides MCB and MSB products continuously for twelve hours a day, from 10am to 10pm. The unit is able to be coin operated or remotely credited and can provide both a standalone bingo offer, / Autumn 2021
or one that runs in parallel with the current bingo offer, enabling extended bingo play and an additional profit stream. Recent improvements have followed the appointment of experienced Bingo operator, Mike Smith (previously of Gala Bingo) as a Consultant with Wexel. Talking about his appointment said, “It’s very much a work in progress, with lots more to come. I’m really excited to be collaborating with Sean and the team at Wexel: within a few weeks we’ve developed a strong relationship based on challenge and trust in equal measure. The team at Wexel have also exceeded all expectations, delivering, what will be an industry-leading offer in a fraction of the time expected”.
Mike’s appointment further strengthens Sean Young’s team at Wexel Gaming, following the appointment of Simon Wykes (previously MD at both Mecca & Gala Bingo) in 2019. Sean Young, Managing Director at Wexel, said, “I’m really excited to see our system becoming more attractive week by week. Our customers are really happy with the changes and will be even more impressed once we’ve undertaken further enhancements to the system over the coming weeks. “I’m really confident that both Simon and Mike will continue to offer us firstclass advice and guidance to make our product best in class within the industry. We are keen to talk to more Bingo-led operators of all sizes, as our BingoPlus product lends itself to fulfilling numerous operator requirements, from extending the gaming day and machine dwell time, to generating a sufficient prize board for a bingo product alongside an arcade offer.”
News round up
A BINGO party The Bingo Association’s Chief Executive Miles Baron reports it’s ‘eyes down’ for MPs attending this year’s Conservative Party Conferences.
n behalf of its members The Bingo Association attended both the Labour Party Conference in Brighton and the Conservative Party Conference in Manchester this year.
It’s nice to meet you – at last! This was the first occasion for some time that attendees were able to meet face to face, with politicians joining meetings, think tanks and discussion groups around the latest thinking. I was finally able to meet the chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Bingo Alex Norris MP in the flesh, after having only previously met on Zoom meetings. Attending the Labour Party Conference afforded the opportunity to meet several other key opposition MP’s such as Alex Sobel MP (Shadow Minister of State for Tourism and Heritage) and some regular conference favourites such as Carolyn Harris MP, (Chair of the APPG for Gambling Related Harm). The Rank Group hosted a great evening event at their Casino on Brighton seafront which was attended by up to 10 MPs at various points throughout the evening. Thanks go to David Williams at Rank for hosting this event. A Bingo Party As you would expect, given they are in Government, the Conservative Party Conference is a different affair. With the 2005 Gambling Act Review in full swing there were events held and supported by both pro and anti-gambling pressure groups. The ironic point of interest here is that both groups want the same thing; a safe and well regulated industry. The differences between the two groups are around what this actually looks like. One problem for what I call the ‘anti-gambling lobby’ is where they continue to brand every activity as ‘gambling‘ when their real focus is digital. Under scrutiny they do concede that land-based premises are the more acceptable form of gambling, however Bingo did not escape some criticism with regard to B3 Gaming machines and Electronic Gaming Tablets, particularly from some of the academics and researchers present. A little knowledge can be a dangerous thing! In the evening, courtesy of our PR and Lobbying Agency PLMR, The Bingo Association held its second Conference Bingo Session on Monday evening during which three games of bingo were to be played, with winners donating the prize money of £50 for a line and £250 for a full house to a charity of their choice. bingoconnect.co.uk
What a line-up of celebrity caller! Firstly ‘red wall‘ MP Gil Mortimer started the ball rolling to a packed room with standing room only. She was followed by head of the Scottish Conservatives Douglas Ross who received an amazing ovation. The third caller was John Whittingdale MP - until recently the Minister in DCMS - with the gambling brief and the 2005 review as part of that brief. By popular demand the three games of bingo extended to five games, with Wrexham MP Sarah Atherton (who came with colleagues socially) offering to call a game and then the former Mayor of Southampton Linda Norris - another social guest - offering to call the final game. What a night, and there is no better way to spread the reputation of the game of Bingo and The Bingo Association than by actually demonstrating what fun it can be! Can’t wait for the next one already.
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News round up
Full steam ahead for
Shipley Creative With the world in and out of lockdown it’s been a challenging year for Shipley Creative. Slowly as consumer confidence is growing and leisure venues continue to see an increase in footfall, the team at Shipley Creative are finding that they have never been so busy.
websites, which seamlessly integrate with ISD’s Maxim CRM system. This means that customers can self-serve from the comfort of their home. Linking a website into Maxim via an API, customers can register as new members or search for existing membership details. All of these new developments are improving the customer’s journey at clubs. The design team are also working on a range of templates that can slot straight into Maxims upcoming email and rich content SMS features. Tradition Direct Mail has not been overlooked and the specialist team
nthony Halliwell, General Manager at Shipley Creative explains, “We faced some tough decisions and had to adopt a flexible approach to staffing. We managed to retain our core team that have helped us grow the business over the last 7 years, which was critical to securing our future.” The team is now back in full force and working on lots of exciting new projects. The video team are working on new animations using a mix of live and static footage. Web developers at Shipley Creative are revamping several clients’
From left to right: Anthony Halliwell, Steven Lawrence, Phil Barber, Laura Hazzard, Karen Pendlebury, Tony Mottram, Sofi Saar
are excited to offer a new service where a membership card, letter and fully branded envelope can be printed at super speed and sent directly to customers. This is a fantastic way to drive lapsed customers back through the doors. Shipley Creative have a wealth of experience in working with bingo operators and are adept at helping clubs harness new production and marketing techniques.
Find out more by emailing email@example.com
A Bingo Bargain! National Bingo Game - Half Price Following the success of the National Bingo Game’s mid-week Half Price promotion for this year’s National Bingo Day, additional promotions have been added to the calendar, the most recent being Wednesday 29th September, and your next…National Bingo Game Half Price promotion will take place on Wednesday 22nd December and will use exactly the same mechanic and admin as the previous executions of the promotion. A short brief showing the Holiday themed POS artwork that will be available will be shared with clubs and operators in mid-November. Any queries regarding the promotion please contact Alastair Stewart at the National Bingo Game.
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News round up
Setting the Standard Bingo Connect catches up with Hayley Smith, Head of Safer Gambling Standards at GamCare. With over 27 years’ experience in the sector under her belt, for the past year, Hayley has been at the helm of Industry Services and pushing forward the Safer Gambling Standard at GamCare.
What have you been working on lately – any exciting updates for the Safer Gambling Standard? We are excited to be signing up all BGC members to take the Standard, and we launched a new B2B version of the Standard earlier this year. We have also released the Industry Code for the Display of Safer Gambling Information for online operators, and the next stage of the code for landbased operators will start in 2022.
How do you see the Standard helping businesses and Bingo operators going forward? The Safer Gambling Standard showcases those gambling businesses which have demonstrated that they take safer gambling seriously and will go above and beyond the regulations to protect consumers. Consumers should have a greater level of confidence in a gambling business
that has demonstrated their focus on customer protection by achieving the Safer Gambling Standard.
As the expert on the Safer Gambling Standard, how do you see the Standard progressing over the next year/ what do you think is coming up next for Bingo operators? The content of the Safer Gambling Standard is reviewed and updated each year by an independent panel of experts with extensive experience and knowledge of the gambling industry. The pending Gambling Act review could result in further developments around the issue of customer protection for all gambling businesses including Bingo operators, and the updated Standard will need to take account of such developments.
Where can Bingo operators go to find out more about issues of gambling harms and details on the Standard? If you have any queries specifically about the Standard please contact us direct: safergamblingstandard@ gamcare.org.uk or visit the website
to arrange a scoping meeting: www.safergamblingstandard.org.uk/ how-to-apply/ You can download the latest version of the Safer Gambling Standard here: www.safergamblingstandard.org.uk/ how-to-apply/the-standard/ The GamCare website at www.gamcare.org.uk provides a wide range of information and resources for operators, where you can also sign up to our newsletter to get more regular updates. We will also be at the National Betting Authority conference this October and also at ICE next year, so people can some and say ’hi’ in person.
Promote your products and services from as little as £165 per issue
Email firstname.lastname@example.org / Autumn 2021
News round up
A million dreams The Rank Group held their annual conference on Wednesday 29th September at Jurys Inn Hinckley Island Conference Centre. The event brings together venue GMs, Executive Comms, venue and digital leadership teams and relevant support staff from both Mecca and Grosvenor brands, over 250 people in total.
he event allows senior executives to provide an update on trading, share strategic goals for the future and to engage with and celebrate venue teams. Those attending were formally welcomed Jonathon Swaine, Managing Director, Venues and John O’Reilly Group Chief Executive Officer, followed by John Dyson, National Operations Director, each delivering a presentation. The conference provided main and plenary sessions, with Mecca GM’s moving between three interactive breakout rooms, that offered an inspiring talk from Paralympian Hannah Cockroft, an insight into Mecca of the future and a customer service focus session. The conference was celebrated with a Gala Dinner, that continued into the small hours with a live band, DJ set, photo booth, charity raffle and late night snacks. The highlight of the evening was the announcement and presentation of National Awards for Venue of the Year, Bingo Star of the Year, Support Colleague of the Year and GM of the Year.
Proud winners and recipients on the night were:
➜ Mecca Thanet for Venue of the Year
➜ Carol Rhead, Head of Marketing Venues for Support Colleague of the Year
➜ Robin Bristow from Chester for Bingo Star of the Year
➜ Kim Jones, GM Mecca Swansea for GM of the Year
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Safer Gambling Week 2021 This year’s Safer Gambling Week is from 1-7 November and the team are determined that it will be the best one yet.
/ Autumn 2021
News round up
members to display SG Week material/messaging, including the use of pull-up banners at entry point and a range of digital messaging in venues, on promotional screens, machine top boxes and electronic terminals. Leaflets and business cards are also available but thought regarding how these are distributed and used will be needed in light of Covid. In addition to this, operators are being asked to promote the Week and messaging on social media and website home pages. These are all minimum commitments, so operators are encouraged to do as much as they can – especially on social media – to promote the campaign and SG messaging, which signposts people to a wide range of free and confidential support. Safer Gambling Week is a great opportunity to promote SG messaging, encouraging people to find out more and highlighting the information and resources that are available throughout the year. The industry actively promotes safer gambling 365 days a year, working with customers, and providing tools such as deposit limits, time-outs and selfexclusion, to help people stay in control. Principle campaign briefings are circulated by gambling related trade associations and sent direct to individual registered users of the SG Week website.
t is now four years since the whole gambling industry - arcades, bingo clubs, bookmakers, casinos and online – came together for the Week which has gone from strength to strength. The aim of the Week is simple: to get as many people as possible talking about the importance of safer gambling, as well as highlighting the tools that are available to help people play responsibly and the range of help that is available if required. Last year the challenges presented by Covid were unique. All land-based venues – bingo cubs, betting shops, casinos and arcades – were closed, preventing the opportunity for engaging face-to-face with customers about safer gambling and the Week. It also meant that visibility of Safer Gambling Week on the high street was all but removed, as the usual display of posters and messaging in venue windows did not happen. Despite these challenges, thanks to the hard work of the SG Week team, the Week still managed to have a highly successful showing. There were 170,000 visits to the Safer Gambling website (up 12% on 2019) and 19 million impressions on social media (up 19%) during the seven days. Operators reported a substantially increased number of visits (35% up on the previous month) to their own safer gambling website pages too and the number of players setting deposit limits during the week was up by 58% on the previous four-week period. With what may be hoped as the worst of the pandemic behind us and land-based businesses open again, this year’s Week should continue to build on previous years’ success, thanks to industry wide involvement and support. Each sector trade association has outlined a minimum commitment and is asking their members to meet the respective commitment. The Bingo Association is asking its
For further information and to access resources visit www.safergamblinguk.org. You can register for access to the free SG Week material online.
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News round up
Rebuilding the future As plans are underway for the much anticpated return of ICE at London’s Excel, Clarion Gaming Group Managing Director, Alex Pratt looks ahead to February 2022.
How has Clarion risen to the challenges of the last two years and not having been able to host ICE? The last 18-months have been unusual for everyone – both professionally and personally. It’s been a very challenging period for the events industry and the Clarion Gaming team has responded magnificently succeeding in bringing
/ Autumn 2021
great new digital products to the table, not least ICE Connect and ICE365.com, which are part of a £1m digital technology investment that’s been made by Clarion to help the international industry to develop and explore commercial opportunities throughout the year. The team is focussing on our key brands, led by ICE London, in order to ensure that we continue to deliver the very best in-person events in the gaming industry calendar.
What are the expectations for ICE 2022? That’s a difficult question to answer on the basis that expectations for the show differ from sector to sector. Clearly the land-based part of the business which includes many readers of Bingo Connect, have been hit extremely hard by Covid-19 with the lockdowns resulting in businesses being closed for long periods. Myself and the team at Clarion have spent a lot of time talking with the landbased sector and their view is that ICE provides an important opportunity for businesses to regroup and rebuild. It will be the first time that the international industry across all of the gaming verticals has been able to meet and come together since the last ICE event in February 2020. The gaming industry is one of the most innovative and resourceful parts of the economy and I am convinced that ICE London will provide the platform for businesses to grow and re-establish themselves. From large sample size research that we commissioned 72% of respondents said they were planning to attend ICE in January with a further 25% yet to make a decision – so we know there’s an appetite to be part of ICE 2022. This is a people business and the gaming industry thrives on the ability to meet face-to-face, network, talk business and do deals. Sometimes those deals might not be completed for months and months but they will be the result of connections that have been made at ICE London. From an organisers perspective we are just
News round up
“ 72% of respondents said they were planning to attend ICE in January 2020.” looking forward to getting back into the saddle, doing what we do best and delivering a great show that meets the needs of our customers.
Benefits of London as a host city
You’ve issued a Customer Charter of commitments – can you explain what that entails? As it became clear that the pandemic was much more than a temporary blip, we felt it was important to present the industry with some hard and fast actions to assist with the recovery. The Customer Charter represents a list of commitments from us as event organisers to the industry. It includes a freeze on the costs of exhibiting in 2022 and 2023, a £500,000 investment in a Hosted Buyer Programme, a 121 Match Programme to organise pre-vetted at-show meetings with targeted buyers, discounts on IT and Web costs, as well as the formation of an internal task force to help secure the best possible room rates at London hotels. I’m pleased that we’ve set out our commitments to the industry in this way and replaced words with actions.
Is London still the best host city for ICE? It’s not what we think as organisers that counts, instead it’s the views and opinions of our international community of stakeholders, who have made ICE such a success over the years that matter. It’s been said on numerous occasions that without their loyal support ICE would not be the world leading brand that it bingoconnect.co.uk
36% 14% 11% 2%
Centralised location/convenient location for me/my business
Wider appeal of London activities
Current Covid-19 vaccination rollout Overall cost of attending
is today. The on-going dialogue we have with our customers provides an important gauge of opinion but this year I wanted to formalise the process and hired the services of a professional market research company to dig down into what the market wanted from ICE including their preferred location. The independent research conducted by Explori, found that 75% felt that London was the right host city with the most frequently cited reason being ease of travel (61%), convenience for
Convenience for international visitors/exhibitors All the customers and suppliers I want to meet attend when hosted there
Ease of travel
international visitors/exhibitors (59%) and London’s ability to attract the right mix of customers and suppliers (53%). I was concerned that perhaps all of the positive responses to London were from industry professionals based in the UK but that wasn’t the case as over two-thirds were based in continental Europe. Clearly location is a fundamental part of the ICE proposition and the research has confirmed the popularity of London.
ICE London 2022 1-3 February, ExCeL Exhibition Centre, London www.icelondon.uk.com
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News round up
IGA Awards 2021: Game of the Year ‘Don’t Find the 9’ The annual International Gaming Awards (IGA), which took place in London on Wednesday 8th September at the prestigious Savoy Hotel, was a night to remember for Majestic Bingo, who beat stiff competition to win Game of the Year 2021.
he International Gaming Awards (IGA) is a charity focused event raising hundreds of thousands for deserving charities such as Care International, Children with Cancer and also Breakthrough Breast Cancer.
Now in its fourteenth year the IGA recognises and rewards the outstanding achievements and excellence within the global gaming sector in bringing engaging games and offering safe and secure gaming within the regulated market. The Awards are supported by some of the largest names in gaming and celebrate every aspect of the sector. With 30 Awards covering a broad range of categories, which include service, charitable contribution, place to work, innovation, rising star, outstanding contribution and Game Of The Year. Game Of The Year acknowledges innovation in stand-alone games, with judges assessing every aspect of the game, including design, market cut-through and commercial
performance. The winner of this award must show the quality of their game, its impact for customers, or for the operator that has designed it, and must prove its innovative and unique content from its competitors, along with its commercial success. The list of finalists included some of the biggest names in interactive gaming and bingo: BGaming, IGT, Inspired Entertainment, Majestic Bingo, Microgaming (Fire Forge), Pilot Games, Playtech, Pragmatic Play and Scientific Games Taking home the coveted Game Of The Year Award, Majestic Bingo won for their ‘Don’t Find The Nine’ game, which launched on 9th October 2020. The innovative game uses an unusual jackpot trigger: while most jackpot triggers work on a specific number being called, this game went in the opposite direction, which posed several challenges with the display
“ The Game of the Year is the award everyone wants to win, and we won it!” / Autumn 2021
News round up
and win condition automation. Mark Jepp, Managing Director of Majestic Bingo said, “The Award for me proves what we already know, that there is just as much innovation, if not more, in retail bingo than other areas of gaming – indeed I believe retail historically leads where others have followed. “I am delighted that the Willow vision has paid dividends and that through Eric’s drive we have created a game that has beat some truly credible operators in winning the most prestigious award of the night.” Majestic’s Operations Director, Eric Howell and HR Director James Taylor attended the gala event and were invited on stage to collect the Award from Colin Thompson, Co-Founder of the IGA. Don’t Find The Nine’s journey started over three years ago when Mark and Steve Barlow of Willow Communications talked about having a platform in Majestic Bingo that could present bingo in a more graphic rich, fun and ultimately more entertaining way: moving away from the industrialisation of the bingo product to something with more fun and theatre. The Willow BIG D platform, which Majestic use in venues, created the Event platform, that then gave Majestic the ability to work with
Willow to create new bingo games and deliver in a highly visual way. The process started with ‘Big Wheels’ where a bingo game with a progressive jackpot element is supported by rich graphics, an intro and great music and sounds. Eric said, “Having this ability allowed us to create various other games we now use across the estate and out of those came Don’t Find The Nine. The idea for the game came from CRAP’s Casino game where the focus is on Number 7 not coming out. Whilst playing the game the table I was on had a particular bad run of Number 7 appearing: I thought what’s the chances of that and so it began. “With Gregg, the mathematician at Cowells Arrows working on the maths, our marketing consultant who created the ‘spy’ type character and Willow for delivery, I could put the final elements of the game together. The Game of the Year is the award everyone wants to win, and we won it!” Some of the data that provided the evidence of commercial success included: • 93% take-up • Customers having shared over £90k in community prizes: Camborne club every customer in the club took away £223! (except the two who did not buy it)
• 7 7 x £50 winners / those customers who have called a full house on the Number 9 Eric and team are hoping to continue their winning streak and have a number of new and exciting games in the pipeline.
Autumn 2021 /
National Bingo Game
Bingo’s BIGGEST Party: National Bingo Day 2021 The UK’s first ever National Bingo Day, held on June 27th this year proved to be a great success, popular with operators and players. In addition to The Bingo Association and all its members signing up, online platforms and operators including Playtech, Pragmatic Play and 888, gave their support to the day.
iles Baron, Chief Executive of The Bingo Association said, “It was great to see all operators coming together to celebrate bingo in all its forms, which helped make the UK’s first ever National Bingo Day such a great success. “Land and online operators saw a positive impact in trading on the day, in addition to raising awareness of bingo overall.
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“Bingo’s own national day has sparked such enthusiasm amongst operators that many have already started exploring activities for next year.” Over 90% of online operators supported the day and 88% of GB online bingo sites (all participating bingo clubs and sites were required to be licensed in the UK under the Gambling Act 2005), all of which ran or participated in special promotions and games on the day, with some also taking to social media to promote the Day. Across the week of National Bingo Day the National Bingo Game experienced a 16.6% uplift in tickets sales, with online operators reporting uplifts of 9-18%, participating sites busier than non-participating sites and some recording excellent social media engagement. Overall the topic of National Bingo Day achieved a reach on social media of just under 21 million. The Day also provided a great opportunity for bingo to do what it does best as a community, supporting people and causes, which included JackpotJoy donating £66,000 to Alzheimer’s Research UK, Sun Bingo donating £20,000 to missingpeople.co.uk and Association
members raising over £27,000 for their national charity, Variety, The Children’s Charity. Conrad Hollingsworth, Variety Chief Executive commented, “We at Variety are extremely grateful and proud to be partnering with The Bingo Association. They have once again surpassed our fundraising expectations, and as part of the National Bingo Day 2021 Fundraising raised an incredible £27,154.77. “We know how important our work is to the children and young people and their families we help across the UK. It is generosity like this that enables us to positively transform lives. Thank you to all the bingo clubs, customers and staff and all that took part in this incredible fundraising effort.” Also supporting their local bingo club, 28 MPs paid a visit to call a game in support of Variety. National Bingo Day 2022 is set for Monday 27th June with a Bingo Awareness Week planned from Monday 20th June 2022.
National Bingo Game
Autumn 2021 /
In profile: Elaine Graham
People who need people… A people person and through and through, Elaine Graham, General Manager at Buzz Bingo Kingsbury Road, Birmingham discovered two things early on in life: a) that she liked people and b) that being part of something was important for her. Not initially drawn to a career in bingo, it was only as her career unfolded that she discovered what bingo would mean for her and how much it means to so many.
orn in Erdington a little over forty years ago a work placement in a nursery, while still at school, sparked an initial interest in childcare. Always interested in work Elaine already had a part-time job in River Island, but childcare seemed to be a better fit, spurring Elaine on to register for a two year college course in childcare. To support her studies Elaine worked part time in a local pub and at the end of the course, realising that childcare was not quite how she wanted to connect with people, she increased her hours at the pub while thinking about what might be the right role for her. A family relocation to Wolverhampton shook things up further and meant that Elaine had to look for a new job. “My dad suggested after the move that I try a job in bingo, as the skills from the pub would be relevant. Looking back, it also drew on my retail experience, which I didn’t think was totally relevant at the time. “In August 1999 I became a part-time team assistant at The Rosum - Jarglen Bingo in Bloxwich Walsall– which was a converted cinema and is no longer there.” Elaine said. Jarglen Bingo was founded by the 1970s by brothers Bill and Horace Kendrick, who worked in the haulage business. Gradually they built up a small chain of clubs in the Midlands which they then sold to Gala Bingo in the late 1990s. Just as Jarglen Bingo transferred to Gala (now Buzz), so did Elaine, who / Autumn 2021
➜ Elaine Graham, General Manager at Buzz Bingo receiving the CEO Award from CEO Chris Matthews
In profile: Elaine Graham
was intrigued by the many and varied roles that existed in a club. Curios by nature she wanted to understand more about how the club and bingo worked: while her bar skills may have secured her initial role at bingo, she quickly learnt about many of the other aspects of the club and spent time in book sales, as change giver, in the kitchen and checking claims. “Transferring to Buzz (Gala as it was then) was great for me, as it really helped my career take off. The more I knew about bingo the more it connected with me and connected me to people in a way I very much enjoy – no day is ever the same. “People is what has kept me involved in bingo now for over twenty years: you are touching people‘s lives, staff and customers. I feel every club is so much more than just a club. We are a community hub, it’s where people feel they belong, customers and many of the staff too. “For many customers it’s a life line, to help them cope with, or take a break from their everyday lives. I have one customer who’s husband has dementia and for her coming to the club is so important; bingo is what she plays, but that is not why she comes. It is the welcome, the sense of belonging and the opportunity for a bit of company and community. “And of course it’s fun – so I feel I get paid to have a good time with people. It’s also great to see people win life changing prizes, and life changing for many customers can be £1,000 and up – or a holiday experience that they might never otherwise have. This is particularly true for many older members who may not have anyone to go with or the confidence, so being part of a group and escorted by people they already know and/or who they know will look after them is a real enabler for them. Plus, an experience shared is always more memorable and adds to the sense of occasion and fun.” Since joining the The Rosum in 1999 Elaine has worked at many Buzz clubs in the Midlands, holding a range of roles, each one building on the one before. After The Rosum it was Stockland Green as Key Holder, then an initial stint at Kingsbury Road as a trainee assistant manager. Elaine held the post of Assistant Manager at Coventry Pool Meadow, Harborne and Birmingham Great Park before moving on to Wolverhampton as Temporary In Charge GM, prior to becoming GM at Wednesbury. bingoconnect.co.uk
“ The more I knew about bingo the more it connected with me and connected me to people in a way I very much enjoy. No day is ever the same.” Elaine said, “I have been back at Kingsbury Road, now as a GM, since 2017: the club holds a special place for me as it’s where I started out on my management training really, but Stockland Green also holds a special place too. “While I was at Stockland Green the Kingsbury Road club had a fire in 2002 – thankfully no one was hurt, but the club did close for a while. Lots of the customers then came to Stockland Road, so we also had a number of the staff from Kingsbury Road come too, to help out. One of them was my partner Peter, who I married in 2017. “Peter left bingo quite some time ago, but I haven’t left bingo or Peter! We have two daughters, 19 and 10, who are both still at home. Strangely the eldest is working in a day nursery and training, so I think caring, people and community must run in the family: no signs of her wanting to move to bingo, but I may win her over yet. “Lockdown was a very strange time for so many people and difficult, but I did get the opportunity to work from home as a Buzz buddy where I would speak to over 200 elderly members a week. My job was to call round more vulnerable Buzz Bingo members, not just from our club, but across the country. It was a real privilege to talk to people, first-hand, and hear directly Autumn 2021 /
In profile: Elaine Graham
how their tone changed on the phone when I introduced myself and said I was calling from Buzz Bingo and it was just a courtesy call to see how they were doing. It was a joy. To talk to them and hear a bit about them – there were happy chats and there were some sad chats, where people had lost someone close to them, but they were all positive chats and helping to make a very real difference in someone’s day. It’s not every job that offers that. “I sent gifts to some of the members who were struggling with the lockdown – one lady had long covid and another lady was disabled and wanted to knit cardigans for her great grandchildren that were due in August 2021: I managed to send her some wool and knitting patterns. I was also able to give return calls to make sure they were ok, conversations could last up to an hour a time.” The love of connection to community and people is something that many working in bingo share and part of what encourages them to support so many charitable causes, through the clubs that they work in and as individuals: Elaine completed Pretty Muddy Race For Life in 2018 in memory of my sister in-law, Lisa Purcell, who lost her battle to breast cancer that same year, as well as connecting the club with local homeless charity over the Christmas period, encouraging members to donate essentials for those living rough. Elaine’s commitment, performance and enthusiasm were rewarded in 2019 at the Buzz Vision GM Conference, when she won the CEO Award, presented by CEO Chris Matthews. The award is about so much more than just profit and potential recipients have to be nominated: Elaine’s Regional Director put her forward. While only an occasional bingo player, Elaine used to go with her Nan, it’s the bingo environment and people as much if not more than the game that speaks to and matters to Elaine, who enjoys Scrabble Go in rare downtime and television’s Married At First Site – simply because it’s bonkers!
“People is what has kept me involved in bingo now for over twenty years: you are touching people‘s lives, staff and customers.”
If you would like to feature in our ‘In Proﬁle’ section, or know someone who you think would make a great profile contact us at email@example.com / Autumn 2021
Wordsearch WIN a £25 Amazon voucher. Solve our word search puzzle by finding the 12 words hidden in the grid below. Note: The words may be written in any direction including backwards and diagonally.
Find the following: Association Balls Connect Friends Games Lucky Calls Member Dabbers Numbers Community Bingo
E J R W C T C E N N O C V Y
A H G O A L C G L L V B E T
O J G K L G X X N W Z L U S
K G S D L T S X T T Y N R I
D M N X S L H V S C V E M Y
H D C I L H P R O T B W K T
N Y P A B E E M Y M L C T B
D W B X D B M Z U H U H Y J
P X R L B U G N J L X Q N P
X K Y A N U A F R I E N D S
O X D I E T M K F F E O V B
B M T A Q Q E E B L J D X D
C Y Z Q F U S R E B M E M L
L W N O I T A I C O S S A X
All Bingo Connect Wordsearch competition entries must be received by 30th November 2021. Please email a clear picture or scan of your completed Bingo Connect Wordsearch to firstname.lastname@example.org along with your full name by the closing date. Alternatively please remove your completed Wordsearch from the magazine, write your name and either your email address or telephone number clearly at the bottom of the page, and send it by post in an envelope addressed to: WORDSEARCH, The Bingo Association, Lexham House, 75 High Street North, Dunstable, Beds LU6 1JF by the closing date. Terms and Conditions: All entrants must be aged 18 or over. The Prize is a single Amazon Gift Voucher to the value of £25.00 and no alternative prize is available. All entries, whether sent by email or post, must be received no later than 30th November 2021. Proof of postage or transmission is not proof of receipt. All correct Bingo Connect Wordsearch entries will be entered into a draw and a single Winner drawn at random by The Bingo Association Limited. The Winner will be notified, either by email or telephone, and the Prize sent within 30 days of the closing date and the Winner’s name published in the following issue of Bingo Connect. The competition is organised by The Bingo Association Limited and their decision is final in all matters relating to this. bingoconnect.co.uk
Autumn 2021 /
In profile: Natalie Rogerson
Cake, karaoke and chickens The surprising life of bingo fan Natalie Rogerson, Office Controller at Mecca Leicester.
ake, karaoke and chickens seem like one of the world’s least likely combinations, but in the amazing bingo universe it makes perfect sense when you know Natalie Rogerson. Arriving in Leicester at the Royal Infirmary forty years ago Natalie is very much a Leicester local, having attended primary school in Holmfield where at the age of five as part of a school event she dressed as a chicken. It was to be the start of something special: the chicken costume, a natural willingness to have fun and connecting with people. After leaving college, having studied art and design, Natalie’s natural career was yet to reveal itself, she said, “I first started working at the age of 13, sweeping hair and shampooing at a local hairdressers, then I worked at a fish & chip shop, I have cleaned night clubs too, but Iearnt very quickly that getting up at 4 o’clock in the morning was never really going to be for me!” Natalie’s mum Joan had always been a bingo player at Mecca Leicester and one night asked Natalie to go with her for fun. They not only had fun but won £100! It was clear they were both enjoying not only the bingo win but the friendly atmosphere too, so Joan said, ”Why don’t you ask if there are any jobs. Seems like you might enjoy it.” Natalie was 19 at the time and had always known that she wanted to work in a fun environment with people, so it seemed perfect. She also had no idea that it would also present lots of opportunities to dress up and update her chicken costume. Her application was successful and twenty one years, a wedding, a family and five children / Autumn 2021
later she is still there, and still loving every minute of it. “I have worked as a team member serving on the bar, calling cashline and mainstage bingo. I have been on book sales and even worked in the kitchen, but that was a disaster as I set the microwave on fire, so they never let me in there again. “After a few years of joining the Mecca team I was promoted to Supervisor grade 1 and then grade 2, looking after the Ancillaries departments, so that was machines and cashline. “In 2007 I left to go on maternity leave and have my first child Ronnie-Jay and came back in August 2008, part-time as a team member. I was quickly asked to move to admin and take up the role as office controller, which was a huge step for me, as I needed to weigh up whether to stay part time or take a chance and jump back into the team leader role I was enjoying before I went on maternity leave. “I took the role with the attitude that I would do my best and do this for my son, so we could have a better life and I have been the office controller ever since. “My role has varied greatly over the years from being responsible for club Health and Safety and internal audits, payroll, holiday and rota planning, to now. We are also required to work on the club floor a lot more, which I really enjoy as much of my work is computer based and without this I wouldn’t get the chance to be with customers, which I love. “After coming back from maternity in 2015 to have my daughter Bethany I carried on fulltime. Now I have duty
➜ Natalie Rogerson, Office Controller, Mecca Leicester
“ I can’t imagine working anywhere else but bingo.” manager shifts and enjoy working with the team to get the customers in and give them a great night out. I also organised team and customer events, look after our social media page and take pride in our club promotions decorating the club, giving promotions and events at Mecca Leicester just a little something extra.” In 2019 Mecca Leicester had its own Royal Wedding, according to Natalie’s General Manager Andrew Smith, when
In profile: Natalie Rogerson
Natalie married partner Phil. It was two years in the planning and Natalie was thrilled to share many of the details with team members as things progressed: not quite Bridezilla, but possibly a distant relative! For Natalie and Phil it was not just the creation of a new family, but also the bringing together of families: Natalie had Ronnie-Jay, Phil had Grace 13 and twins Jamie and Roxanna 11, and together they had Bethany. “The children take up most of my spare time as you can imagine. Our weekends get very loud very quickly! All my days off and holidays are planned around making memories with them. We made it to Disneyland Paris last August, which was an amazing trip for the seven of us, under the circumstances it was a miracle we made it after re-scheduling from March 2020. “I am a lover of cake, both making and eating, and loved taking part in Mecca’s very own Great Bingo Bake-off during the lockdown. Any chance to go for afternoon tea, count me in. I also love to sing and am up there at the mic any chance I get. I actually arranged for our club to host karaoke nights just so I could host the event and sing to our customers – they love it and so do I! “It is strange in some ways that a chance night out with my mum twenty years ago helped me find a job and career that is such a great fit for me. I think I may have been born to work in bingo as I love it so much. It brings together the things I enjoy: fun, being with people, singing and even cake, when there’s a birthday, and karaoke too. It has also fitted really well with my life, children and family, I can’t
imagine working anywhere else but bingo. I cheer the customers on when they have a win, everyone says I get so excited you’d think I had won, but I am just happy for them.” “Even now, I still play with my mum and we head off to Mecca Beeston when we can for a cheeky game or two - I love the feeling of waiting for one number and then having to shout, even for £10.” With work, family and five children we wondered how, or even if, Natalie had anytime to unwind and if so how? “I enjoy fishing” she said, “but don’t tell my husband though, as I make out I hate it, but actually it’s so relaxing when we are there and the kids are with their nana. So peaceful.”
➜ Photo below: Natalie on Honeymoon in Majorca
➜ Photo above: Natalie in Chicken costume and Sarah Gardner, Team Leader, in Cowboy costume for some extra post lockdown fun, promoting Bingo Beats session ➜ Photo left: Mecca Bingo, Leicester
Autumn 2021 /
Leo Leisure roars into Weymouth
Leo Leisure, the largest independent bingo operator on the south coast, has launched its latest venue in coastal hot spot, Weymouth.
he new club opened its doors on Friday 17th September following substantial development and refurbishment work, which saw the club redecorated with new colour scheme and carpets, in addition to a new party area, new VIP Lounge and, through securing land beside the club, a members’ car park. In addition the on-demand food menu and expanded bar offering available in other Leo Leisure venues was also introduced to the Weymouth club: customers have a wide range of drinks available at the bar, including draft beer, and ‘Hunters Chicken’ on the made to order food menu, exclusively for the Weymouth club – the dish, a firm favourite with Weymouth players, is a chicken breast, topped with bacon, barbeque sauce and cheese, sliced, and served on a bed of fries. The opening of the club was marked with weekend long celebrations, that included live music from The Drifters (Friday), meet the team with special games (Saturday), and a visit from Butlers in The Buff (Sunday)! Due to the second national COVID lockdown earlier this year and uncertainty surrounding exit from this, progress with work in the club took longer than expected and planning marketing and member recruitment activity was extremely difficult.
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Featured article: Leo Leisure
Peter Brown, of Leo Leisure said, “We had wanted to open a Membership Shop and few months earlier but thanks to COVID this was just not viable. Once we were clearer on completion of works and an opening date we could start promoting the club and used a combination of local radio, press and staff leafleting. “Surprisingly it was our license application that triggered the biggest press interest, even appearing in The Sun. When we were making the application we needed to decide if we wanted to include ‘adult entertainment’ and as many bingo clubs have ladies’ nights that occasionally involve strippers and butlers, we thought we had better include it to keep our options open for future party nights. “Having all the publicity around strippers at bingo we made sure that a visit from butlers in the buff was part of our opening celebrations.” The venue, previously operated by Buzz Bingo, had closed in May 2020 as part of a number of closures the chain had made following the first national COVID related lockdown. Where a larger operator had not been able to create a profitable local club, finding the micro nature of local markets a challenge, Peter saw the potential of a good local community based club in the Weymouth market, something that very much fitted Leo Leisure values. “Having had success with the Eastbourne club, that now does over 1,000 admissions a week, we have seen just how successful local clubs can be and believe that Weymouth has the same potential for success.
“I started the process in December 2020, approaching the landlord about the empty venue, and completed the deal in May ‘21. It is great that we have also been able to recruit many of the old Buzz team, including Billy Gerrie and Claire Walters, who know bingo and the local market. “We believe our success in business, has thus far been that we have mainly taken on failed or failing businesses at crucial times in legislation and in the economy, as we are adaptable, flexible and also speculative. Our strap-line is “Value for Money Bingo”, something our customers appreciate, and our mission statement is to re-invent and re-invest.” Leo Leisure, a family run business, started in 1985 when Peter Brown Snr and wife Janice, who both had a wealth of experience as managers, purchased Shaftesbury Bingo club in Portsmouth from Mecca. A second club purchase in Eastleigh followed in 1994 when Leo Leisure was launched. In 2007 Leo Leisure took over the bingo club in Ryde, on the Isle of Wight – the same day as the smoking ban came into effect - and in 2009 purchased the Commodore Cinema, which was about to go into administration and was in the upper levels of the bingo club: previous knowledge and experience of bingo/cinema operations was a bonus for Peter and Janice. Their eldest son Peter, who now runs the business, added a further bingo club in Eastbourne to the chain in 2012, which had closed in 2011, and Leo’s Playden, a children’s soft play centre in Eastbourne in 2014, adapting the lower floor of the Eastbourne site to utilise empty space. Peter commented, “There have been some big changes since my parents started the business, both in terms of legislation and technology: the smoking ban, electronic bingo tablets, contactless payments, social media and the change in machines from being mechanical to digital. But for us, it has always been about community and remaining adaptable, something that is continuing as we prepare for the new website, a new Leo Leisure App and a potential new venue in Southampton for 2022.” Leo Leisure operate bingo clubs in Eastleigh, Ryde, Eastbourne and Weymouth. Autumn 2021 /
Featured article: Cosmo Bingo
A brand new Cosmo Cosmo Bingo is well known and much loved in both Stalybridge and Eccles, where the two clubs have been serving up fun and bingo for more years than many can remember. In July 2019 both venues were taken over by Boyle Sports, Ireland’s largest independent bookmaker founded by John Boyle in 1982.
t was not immediately clear what the new owners’ plans were for the clubs, as the purchase marked a move away from Boyle Sports’ core business. However, it quickly became clear that Cosmo’s new owners wished to build on a winning formula, investing in both clubs and giving Stalybridge the full treatment. Cosmo Stalybridge has not been sleeping during the recent enforced Covid lock downs, with Boyle Sports taking the opportunity to invest a significant sum of money and undertake a complete refurbishment of the club’s facilities. The results are outstanding, creating a completely
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different venue fit for the modern era of entertainment and bingo. The spacious entrance area immediately sets the scene as the Blue LED themed décor creates a feeling of something new and exciting in the world of Bingo! Multiple monitors show a mixture of Sky Sports programmes, in club promotions and member’s information channels. Bingo bees! Players can experience the very latest Bingo Bee tablets for bringing the whole Bingo Game up to date, enabling play of all the various styles of Bingo offered throughout the session. Bingo Bees also allow the customers to order drinks from the comfort of their seats and play gaming machines.
New gaming machine room! Investing in the very latest new Gaming Machines for players to enjoy, these top spec machines include classic and popular favourites, including the three player Rainbow Riches Community. The Gaming Machine room is a big feature of the new club, and the improved design and comfort of the room is proving a big hit with customers. New noisy bingo! The Club is now also able to offer a new facility known as the Smart Lounge, where the traditionally silent game of Bingo is replaced by being able to chat as much as you like while listening to the music or TV when Bingo is being called! It’s a great room for parties and celebrating with family and friends. The club has also opened a brand new licensed bar, which primarily looks after our Smart Lounge and later evening customers who like to stay on after bingo has finished to enjoy a catchup with friends, or enjoy an after session theme night. Recent successes have included pizza and prosecco and quiz nights. The more traditional main hall has undergone a complete LED lighting change making for a much brighter experience, with more improvements to come!
Autumn 2021 /
Featured article: Apple Bingo
Bingo’s very own ‘Big Apple’ South London’s newest club Apple Bingo is all heart.
ingo clubs are always at the heart of their community, bringing people together: there’s a reason why the phrase ‘bingo buddies’ rings so true, but when a club closes the loss is so much more than just not playing bingo. For those new to bingo, both team members and customers, the community bonds and friendships of bingo can be a revelation, something that hit home with Apple Bingo founders Arifur Rahman, Malar Kannan and Kandiah Thampinathan (Nathan). Each of the founders of Sydenham’s newest community venue, Apple Bingo, found their way to bingo from quite unrelated career paths and, as with so many, loved what they found and the opportunity to connect with people.
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“We each came from different or non-bingo backgrounds,” said Arifur, “Nathan has a degree in accounting and finance, Malar studied engineering and has an MBA, and I have a Masters in accounting. None of which you would have thought might have lead you to bingo. “But we all found bingo and met each other while working for Mecca. I had been working for American Express and was looking for a new post and direction in 2011 and applied to Mecca Bingo to work at their Catford club. It was a revelation! “I loved the environment and people, as it felt such a happy place. I had never really thought of bingo as a career before, but it just felt right.” It was while working at Catford for GM Kim Jones that Arifur met Malar and Nathan, who both felt the same way about bingo too. Malar had worked in bingo for 12 years and Nathan 18 years. Kim said, “They each have great natural energy and working with them was fantastic. They were always focused on customers’ needs and their enthusiasm was infectious and genuine.” When Mecca Catford closed in 2018 Arifur, Malar and Nathan missed the club, bingo and the customers. “We had worked over 10 years at the club,” Nathan said, “our bingo customers are like our family. When the club closed, we felt we had lost family.” While working at Catford the trio had got to know the local competition very well: Buzz in Eltham, Surrey Quays and Tooting, and at that time, The Palaces at Elephant and Castle. All three had played in all the clubs and watched what worked and what didn’t in terms of promotion and customer interaction: all three are unanimous in siting Patrick Duffy as a huge inspiration and influence on their club, observing on many occasions Patrick’s interaction with customers and solving any issues on the spot. They also paid close attention to policy: more money on the board, means more customers and more customers means more money on the board.
Featured article: Apple Bingo
They each had choice, to continue to work for someone else or, to combine their considerable expertise and experience and set up their own club: they knew the market and that there was space for a new club, and missed their customers, they just needed to find the right venue. Malar commented, “The market is very local but covers a surprisingly broad area, from Hither Green, and Catford, through New Cross and even over as far as Elephant and Castle. Bingo clubs need space, so despite the size of the area we were looking in there were no obvious options.” Living locally as all three co-founders do, they were constantly on the lookout for options that would offer the space needed and in locations where the local authority would be likely to grant the necessary licenses. Zanzibar nightclub in Sydenham closed in 2015 following revocation of its license due to a string of complaints regarding mismanagement and problems with patrons, since which time it had been vacant. The old nightclub offered the right square footage and was in a central location, conveniently opposite Sydenham Bus Station, a hub for south east London buses. While there was no car park this was unlikely to be an issue for most customers in the area as they used public transport, in addition to which this would also make the lease more viable.
It seemed like a great venue in an ideal location, but the issue of change of use and licenses still needed to be explored, at least in principle, before progressing further. Meetings with the local police and council revealed that not only were they open to the proposal, but would actively welcome it. While bingo players might be a bit testy when there is talking during main stage or a false call, they are, as a rule, not prone to heavy alcohol consumption and unruly behaviour, which pleased the police, and the council were eager to see the large venue brought back to community use. The trio made their move, arranging finance for their club through personal savings, mortgages and loans in order to make it happen, opening their doors in August 2020. As the world was in the midst of the COVID pandemic, opening a new leisure venue may have been viewed by some as extremely risky, but one year and a second national lockdown later the trio are triumphant. The Catford club was doing 1,200 admissions a week, Apple Bingo Sydenham is already doing 1,500, and rising, in addition to which Arifur, Malar and Nathan have been able to reconnect with their bingo family, staff and customers. What gave them the courage to proceed and the confidence that they would be a success? We asked Arifur. “Our collective time working in bingo has given us a lot of experience, of customers, managing clubs and the local south east London bingo market, as well as having the opportunity to work with and learn from some truly inspirational people in the sector - like Mark Brenton AM at Mecca, Kim Jones GM Mecca (unbeatable at customer service) Jane Hudson (beautiful mind) and Adam Conningham and Anver Murad at Buzz. “This made us sure that if we could find a venue and physically create the right space, then we would be able to deliver the right customer experience – with Malar front of house and book sales, Nathan back of house and catering, me main stage and our brilliant host Michael Farley. We had great support from bingo industry suppliers including Tony Lister from Cowells Arrow, Jodie Biglin at ECM, Steve Clark from Leisure Technique, Chris Wrigley from ISD for Maxim, Ralph Taylor from UK Gaming and Alastair Stewart at the National Bingo Game, which we want to be able to offer in club as soon as we opened. “Our club is all about us: me, Malar, Nathan and Michael. Our golden rule is the customer is always right. All our members know it’s their club, every single one of them is like a family member - we know them, we talk to them, we try to understand what they want and resolve any issues they may have then and there. This is something you can’t do in a large chain. What makes it a success? This extraordinary group of people, you can’t find the same group anywhere else and this is our success formula - with Nathan handling the back office all is in his steady control and Michael Farley a great show host, but if it was not for Malar and the sacrifices made by his wife Seema, Nathan’s wife Suthakalyani and my wife Sadia who have been involved from the start, there would be no Apple Bingo.”
Autumn 2021 /
Featured article: Economic update from EY
Looking into the future landscape for the Bingo industry
By Chris Sanger and Steven Effingham from EY
ince the COVID-19 outbreak hit the UK in March 2020, the Chancellor has prioritised the protection of jobs and introduced measures to help support businesses through these challenging times. Now that the UK is (hopefully) leaving behind the darkest months of the pandemic and life seems to be returning to some kind of normality, the Chancellor has pledged to keep doing “whatever it takes to support the British people and businesses”. However, while delivering this year’s Spring Budget, the Chancellor also
/ Autumn 2021
sent us a clear warning: “once we are on the way to recovery, we will need to begin fixing the public finances”. So what could this mean for the Bingo industry? Is the UK economy on the way to recovery? While it would be impossible to downplay the impact which the COVID-19 lockdowns have had on the British economy, the economic data tell us that, as challenging as things have been, the UK does now seem to be heading towards a more positive
Featured article: Economic update from EY
economic future. The EY ITEM Club now expects the UK economy to return to its pre-2020 levels by the end of 2021 - a year earlier than previously forecast. The UK economy is now expected to grow by 7.6% in 2021 and to achieve further growth of 6.5% in 2022. This recovery has been led by strong consumer spending following the end of lockdowns. The EY ITEM Club forecasts consumer spending to rise 4.8% in 2021 and 7.4% in 2022 - the latter would be the strongest calendar year performance since 1945. A fall in business investment was a significant factor in the economic shock in 2020. With the Chancellor announcing enhanced tax relief for depreciation alongside increased public investment, the EY ITEM Club expects 9.5% growth in fixed investment in 2021 and 10.4% in 2022. Hence, while we are not out of the woods yet, data suggest that the UK economy is bouncing back more quickly than expected. And what is the state of the public purse? It does appear that our public finances are also less affected than some of the more pessimistic scenarios outlined. The deficit in 2020–21 is now estimated to have been £299.2 billion (14% of GDP), compared to the Office of Bubget Responsibility (OBR)’s forecast of £356 billion (17% of GDP) back in March. This improving deficit trend has continued in April and May 2021, reflecting lower-than-expected public spending and higher-thanexpected tax receipts. While this year’s Spring Budget still included measures to support and boost economic recovery – including temporary tax incentives – the Chancellor also announced some medium-term measures to rein back the deficit, notably an increase to 25% in the corporation tax rate for larger companies from April 2023. This is the largest tax rise in the Budget, generating close to £17 billion per annum by the end of the Parliament, almost 60% of the total revenue raised. Budget 2021 also froze the income tax personal allowances and thresholds in other taxes which should bingoconnect.co.uk
“ The EY ITEM Club now expects the UK economy to return to its pre-2020 levels by the end of 2021 - a year earlier than previously forecast.” raise a total of £22 billion in additional revenue by financial year 2025-2026. On top of the above additional revenue, as the economy continues its recovery, tax receipts can be expected to recover. However, the question now is whether this will be enough or whether more tax measures will be needed? The Chancellor has announced that the OBR will present its economic and fiscal forecast on 27 October 2021. OBR forecasts usually accompany a fiscal event; however, it has not yet been confirmed whether we will see a full Autumn Budget or just a fiscal statement. There have been reports that the Chancellor may decide to follow last year’s precedent and delay the Budget beyond Autumn to assess the impact of the end of the COVID-19 support schemes on the economy. The nature of the tax and fiscal measures to be taken will largely depend on how strong the economic and fiscal recovery is in the coming months. We still await the Government’s final response to the business rates review – which was delayed to the Autumn, when a consultation on a new online sales tax is also expected to be announced – and the government responses to the Office of Tax Simplification (OTS) reports on capital gains and inheritance tax. There are also reports that the Treasury is considering changes to pensions tax relief and the introduction of a social care levy. What does mean for the Bingo industry? None of the above guarantees an easy ride for the Bingo industry, but it does offer grounds for optimism.
With the majority of COVID-19 related restrictions being lifted, Bingo customers will be eager to return to venues across the UK to play their favourite game. With the return of customers to physical venues, the Bingo industry’s tax receipts should also recover. As with other sources of revenue, betting and gaming receipts were affected during the COVID-19 crisis due to the closure of venues during the various lockdowns. Bingo Duty receipts were almost at zero between May 2020 and July 2020 with a recovery in August and September 2020. However, receipts flattened out again from December 2020 to March 2021 but this trend should be reversed in the coming months as venues open again. Once we see a return to more normal operations over the coming months, it will be important to take the time needed to review and understand the new world and this will help shape longer-term strategies and decisions. With a supportive and stable tax and regulatory environment, the Bingo industry should be well placed to see further opportunities for a sustained recovery in 2022.
➜ Chris Sanger is Tax Policy Leader at EY and Steven Effingham Tax Policy Director at EY. The EY tax policy network has advisers in more than 85 countries and advises clients on how to effect policy change directly and through strategically engaging policy makers. www.ey.com
Autumn 2021 /
Featured article: Employment update from Taylor Walton
No Jab, No Job? Compulsory vaccination at work Since the start of the year, the Covid-19 vaccination rollout has been going strong, with the majority of the UK’s adult population now double vaccinated. However, for a variety of reasons, there are some people who remain unvaccinated, including those who are unable to receive it in the future.
s a result, save in respect of care home workers where the Government has legislated to require the majority of staff to be double vaccinated save in limited circumstances, the idea of making the Covid-19 vaccine a condition of employment is not without its risks. Other than care home workers, there is currently no legal provision that permits an employer to implement compulsory vaccines. However, some businesses have considered this option as a way of protecting workers and employees. Those organisations that may still be toying with the idea should tread carefully. Compulsory vaccines are a legal minefield that must be navigated carefully to avoid breaching legal obligations to workers and employees. Health and safety at work It is the employer’s responsibility to ensure that workplace risks are mitigated. Therefore, employers should take all reasonably practicable steps to keep employees safe as outlined under section 2 of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 (HSWA 1974). According to section 7 of this act, an employee has a duty to co-operate as necessary with the employer to enable it to comply with any statutory requirements including reducing workplace risks. While every employee wants to feel safe in the workplace, this requirement is unlikely to extend to employees being legally required to be vaccinated against Covid-19 in all business sectors. The meaning of “reasonableness” is likely to depend on the business sector of the employer and the services it provides. Of course, rules and guidelines will vary between / Autumn 2021
businesses, and those that interact with customers faceto-face may need to introduce stricter measures to keep people safe. For example, employees working in a retail environment may come into close contact with customers, so the idea of a compulsory vaccine may alleviate fears of catching or spreading Covid-19. Therefore, the request of an employer operating in the retail sector for its employees to take the vaccination could be argued to be a ‘reasonable management request’, as refusing to take the vaccination could pose severe risk to fellow employees and customers. Dismissal in such circumstances could fall within the range of reasonable responses for the employer to dismiss the employee fairly, either on grounds of conduct or for some other substantial reason. This argument is likely to have less weight for office-based workers who do not have regular customer contact. Since the position is less clear in other sectors, employers must exercise caution before deciding to dismiss. Employers should consider all available options before taking drastic action, as it may be possible to mitigate risks by moving certain employees to other areas of the business. Regardless of sector, all organisations should carefully consider the circumstances of the individual employee when pursuing dismissal, as they risk being accused of discrimination on the grounds of religion and belief, disability or pregnancy, and breach of data protection legislation. Religion and belief It is unlikely that an ‘anti-vax’ belief amounts to a philosophical belief for the purposes of the Equality Act
Featured article: Employment update from Taylor Walton
2010. Not all vaccines in production have released their list of ingredients, however. So it is possible that gelatine may have been used in some vaccines, or in its production process. Hence employees with certain religious beliefs or vegans may have religious or philosophical grounds for refusing to take the vaccination. Disability If an employee has been advised by their doctor not to take the vaccine on medical grounds, an employer’s requirement to take the vaccine may amount to disability discrimination. Even if the employee is not disabled, a tribunal may find that the request to the employee to go against medical advice is unreasonable in any event. An employee’s fear of needles (trypanophobia) may also amount to a disability. Therefore an employer would need to consider whether it could provide alternative working arrangements for that employee – for example, working from home on a permanent basis. Pregnancy and maternity Government advice has recently changed in relation to vaccines for pregnant women. The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) has advised that pregnant women should be offered COVID-19 vaccines at the same time as people of the same age or risk group. Whilst many pregnant women may be willing to be vaccinated, some may be concerned about the potential effects on their unborn baby and refuse to have the vaccine. In these circumstances, the employer will need to carefully consider the circumstances. Where the employee is refusing to be vaccinated due to being pregnant, dismissal may lead to claims for sex discrimination, and /or pregnancy/maternity discrimination. Employers should consider all available alternatives and whether other measures (for example, regular testing, working from home) may be sufficient in the circumstances.
sufficient to show that the employer has a legal obligation or a legitimate interest in collecting the data, the employer is unlikely to have a lawful basis for collecting the data. In summary The idea of using compulsory vaccines to protect employees and customers seems like a reasonable request. In reality however, there are many potential complications and legal issues that come with it. Before introducing a compulsory vaccination policy, employers should carefully consider what impact it will have on their workforce, so they don’t land themselves in trouble later down the line. Employers should also keep up to date with the latest government public health guidance and start to develop their own Covid-19 policies to take into account the implications of the vaccine in the workplace.
Alec Colson is a Solicitor and Partner at Taylor Walton LLP, in Taylor Walton’s Employment team. Alec has specialised in Employment and Industrial Relations Law for over 20 years.
Data protection Personal data collected in connection with an employee’s vaccination records will be sensitive personal data, or special category personal data, and will need to be processed in accordance with the General Data Protection Regulation. But is it legal to collect such data? The answer to this question depends on whether the employer, as a data controller, has a legitimate interest or legal obligation to collect vaccine information due to the nature of their business. Employers wishing to obtain vaccination evidence should carry out a data impact assessment which considers carefully the reason for collecting the data, where the data will be held, the security measures in place and who has access to the data. Unless the employer can show a substantial health and safety based reason for collecting the data, which is bingoconnect.co.uk
Autumn 2021 /
Featured article: Compliant advertising
Eyes down for compliant advertising! Bingo ads and the advertising codes Nick Arron of Poppleston Allen LLP takes us through bingo ads and the advertising codes.
ummer is historically quieter from a regulatory perspective. The politicians are on holiday and, this summer, we have all been concentrating on operations, now we are open again and out of lockdown. Earlier in the year I wrote about the Government Call for Evidence and Review of the Gambling Act 2005, and the potential changes which may result. We don’t expect to see any further developments until later into the year. When the proposed changes are published, they will be significant and subject to much discussion. Over the summer the Gambling Commission has continued on the regulatory warpath, fining online bingo operator Daub Alderney £5.85 million for anti-money laundering and social responsibility failings. It is the second penalty in less than three years imposed by the Commission on Daub Alderney, which in part explains the high fine. From a practical perspective, on 24th June 2021 the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) published a feature on their website, “Eyes down for compliant advertising! Bingo ads and the Advertising Codes”: the focus of my piece for this issue of Bingo Connect. / Autumn 2021
Bingo products are treated no differently to any other gambling product when it comes to the Advertising Codes. They are subject to the Non-Broadcast Advertising Code (or CAP), being the rulebook for websites, sales promotions, direct marketing communications etc. There is then the Broadcast Advertising Code (or BCAP), which relates to television and radio. We also have to consider the Industry Group for Responsible Gambling Code for Socially Responsible Advertising, which was updated in September 2020 and is now in its 6th edition. The ASA article reminded us that ads for bingo cannot suggest that gambling can provide an escape from personal or professional problems, such as loneliness or depression. An ad for “Rehab Bingo” was banned by the ASA, as it considered that using the word “rehab” in the context of bingo suggested that the gambling was a form of rehabilitation that could be used to alleviate personal problems. This clearly was not the case. The ASA article referenced advertising which suggests gambling can be used as a solution to financial concerns is a no-no and mentioned an ad for Gala Bingo placed by an affiliate, which included in the narrative a
player with financial debts, with the ad suggesting that by playing he could have cleared those debts. The advert was banned. We must ensure that bingo adverts are not directed at under 18s through the selection of media or context: an ad for Betfair Bingo was seen in “Looney Tunes World of Mayhem”, a smartphone musical cartoon application. Not an appropriate choice of location for a bingo advertisement. This can be a challenging area. Social media platforms are key marketing channels, and we have regular calls from clients with questions on their social media presence and their posts. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and TikTok are often difficult entities to deal with, so big they are cumbersome and inconsistent. They are not all comfortable with gambling operations on their platforms and all have specific rules governing their relationship with gambling business users. Also, social media posts themselves can be so easily published without thorough consideration or process, leading to the potential for posts which breach the codes.
Featured article: Compliance report
“Social media platforms are key marketing channels, and we have regular calls from clients with questions on their social media presence and their posts.” The advertising codes are extensive and detailed, and they are not just a matter for the ASA; they are also a consideration for the Gambling Commission. Social Responsibility Code provision of Operating Licences requires compliance with the codes, and compliance with the Industry Code is advised as best practice. Compliance with the codes is also a
condition of membership of The Bingo Association, as reflected in their Code of Conduct. The ASA article is a good reminder of the potential regulatory pitfalls of marketing and concludes with a notable reference to the ASA free copy advice service, which is worth considering when creating advertisements – visit www.asa.org.uk
Nick Arron is a partner at niche licensing law firm Poppleston Allen. Poppleston Allen act for The Bingo Association and advises its members. Nick can be contacted via email n.arron@ popall.co.uk or telephone 07968 805559. www.popall.co.uk
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Autumn 2021 /
Bingo has a long history in the UK where it has always been about people, community and fun. Since it became popular here in the 1950s and 60s, operators, the media and private individuals have been there to record events and occasions, capturing unique moments, people and places that have played their part in bingo’s rich history. Since 2015 Sean Connolly - known by many in the bingo sector - began sharing all his old bingo photos on Facebook ‘Bingo Photos Old and New’ and has posted over 7,000 images of people and clubs which has enabled a great many colleagues to reconnect.
This issue we celebrate bingo’s unique and enduring connection to the Seaside: ➜ Coral Social Club, Blackpool - Crowds outside The Bingo Club at Blackpool Coral Island in 1988. Image courtesy of the late Trevor Bostock.
➜ This 1989 photo features the Managers from both Rhyl clubs Chris Gallagher from Ciral and Denis Jones from the Apollo. The Bingo Association’s chosen charity that year were the RNLI. Also featured on the left is Julian Cotterall. Photo from the BAGB archives.
➜ Granada, Bournemouth
➜ Garrick Southport
➜ Mecca, Great Yarmouth 2009. Image of Mecca Great Yarmouth courtesy of Owen Lucas.
/ Autumn 2021
If you have bingo images that you would like to donate and/or share with Sean, please contact him via Facebook @old.bingo.photographs or email: email@example.com
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nationalbingo.co.uk All players must be aged 18 or over. The National Bingo Game is played under the provisions of The Gambling Act 2005 and National Bingo Game Rules apply. Players should always gamble responsibly and play within their limits. For more information please visit www.BeGambleAware.org
IN E Z RI B! P SE CLU U HO VERY E Autumn 2021 /
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