It's game over as smoking ban kills off city bingo hall

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THE number's up for an Edinburgh bingo hall that has been forced to close after an 80 per cent drop in players since the smoking ban.

Gala Bingo, in West Granton, once boasted around 8000 customers a week – but numbers have slumped to as low as 1500 since the ban came into force.

On Saturday night, the decision was finally taken to close the club, which opened 12 and a half years ago.

Manager Janet Duncan said loyal customers had been left "devastated". She said: "It's all very sad. You got to know so many faces, the regulars. For our loyal customers the news of our closure has left them devastated.

"What's put us out of business has certainly been the smoking ban. Also, a bus service that used to stop at our door and pull in punters from Leith and Pennywell no longer runs."

A spokeswoman for owners Gala Coral refused to say why it had closed the hall but said the smoking ban alone could not be blamed.

Elsewhere in the city, other bingo clubs have also noticed a significant drop in numbers.

The duty manager at one hall, who declined to give his name, said: "The smoking ban has affected every gaming establishment but the more people get used to it, the more likely they are to come back. I don't think bingo is on the way out. Around the time of the ban, online bingo was taking off."

The Bingo Association, the body representing the game, said around 40 clubs across the UK had closed in the past year.

Paul Talboys, the association's chief executive, said 189 clubs across the UK are currently under the threat of closure.

"I think bingo has been particularly affected by the smoking ban because a high percentage of our customers smoke and the revenue generated is mainly from non-bingo activities in the intervals, such as people going to the bar and using the slot machines. Nowadays customers rush outside for a fag at the interval," he said.

"Most operators report that they are seeing new faces. But it's going to be a while before there are enough to replace the old faces."

200 fines for breaking law

SINCE the introduction of the smoking ban in March 2006, city council officers have issued four 200 fixed penalty notices.

Of the four smokers caught flouting the law, one was caught in an office, another in a shop, one in a licensed premises and one in a workshop.

A further eight 50 fines have been handed out to people caught lighting up in vehicles.

Now the city council is to share its expertise in enforcing the ban with a global audience.

The council will submit an online presentation to a US-based training website aimed at helping developing countries introduce similar legislation.

John Rafferty, a smoking and health enforcement officer, said: "Our approach to implementing the smoking ban was very much non-confrontational in style."