Bingo profits plunge 62% on smoke ban
THE smoking ban has led to a huge drop in profits for the UK's largest independent bingo operator, the Scottish-based Carlton Bingo.
Annual accounts released yesterday reported pre-tax profits for Carlton Clubs was down by 62 per cent on last year, with smokers preferring to stay at home rather than face an evening without the chance to light up.
Peter Perrins, the managing director, said the Executive should have heeded warnings and that 2006 was a year the company would "wish to hide and forget".
Mr Perrins said the company closed the Tivoli in Edinburgh and the Alhambra in Dunfermline last year. A further small club in Grangemouth closed at the start of this year.
Mr Perrins added that further closures "could not be ruled out".
The managing director said: "The Scottish Executive was warned that such a blanket ban would seriously affect smaller community halls where any downturn in admissions would question their viability.
"Bingo is lost to these communities forever as the entry costs for any new operator are too high to contemplate."
Thanks to the opening of new large clubs in Dunfermline and Inverness, the overall turnover of Carlton Clubs fell by only 4 per cent, but Mr Perrins said that at a time when the business should have been expanding, it was faced with a loss in profit.
According to company figures, 70 per cent of regular bingo-goers are smokers, but Mr Perrins said he hoped the industry would recover from the loss of business.
"Customer attitudes to smoking are changing as time passes and, equally, the public perception of bingo as a smoke-filled room will change over time, appealing to non-smokers."
A spokesman for the Executive said: "The consultation on the smoking ban has the highest number of responses of any consultation carried out by the Executive and stakeholders were involved before legislation was brought in."
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