Published: 03/08/2011 16:41 - Updated: 03/08/2011 16:45

Have smoking bans across the UK affected the future of the bingo hall?

BINGO has always been big business. One of the reasons for this is that it's simple to pick up and gives huge amounts of pleasure.

It's not always been about the winning either, though that is a massive attraction; bingo is about having fun with friends, catching up, meeting new people, and then there's the winning!

This social side to bingo has always been very prominent; ever since the first bingo halls were established in the UK they were marketed as places to go with your friends. However, for many people social occasions always meant letting your hair down and having a smoke, and since the smoking ban came into effect in the UK in July 2007, this is no longer possible.

Even though smoking in a public place was becoming more and more socially unacceptable before the ban, there were some venues that seemed to cling to the tradition, and bingo halls seemed to be the epitome of this. How then have these die-hards reacted to having to go outside before they can light up?

Smokers are now banished outside, and even with a smoking shelter in place, this is often not a fun place to be in our intemperate climes, and it has been reported that the effect of the ban has had direct consequences for bingo halls. There has been a very definite drop in admissions, which naturally has led to a decrease in the amount of money that is being spent within the halls, which has had a negative impact on prize money, which in turn puts more people off.

It has also been noted that even accounting for reduced numbers, the people who are still attending are not spending as much because in the 'olden days' they would play the slots in between games of bingo. Nowadays, they are spending this time huddled together outside having a smoke. Even their non-smoking friends are going outside to keep them company.

The answer seems to be online bingo. When you play bingo online the social aspects may not be quite the same as meeting up with friends, but the chat rooms that run alongside the games enable players to interact with others. This may initially seem to be a poor substitute for enjoying the company of people that you know, but surprisingly it seems to work. Register with any of the sites that provide bingo games and you'll see for yourself how complete strangers welcome each other and chat away about every subject under the sun as if they've known each other for years.

The attraction of these sites is undeniable with companies investing huge sums in their promotion, and it certainly doesn't hurt when they offer introductory incentives. One of the most generous comes from Ladbrokes who will give new members £50 if they commit an initial £10 themselves. This turns people into winners before they've so much as bought their first bingo card.

There are also huge numbers of different games to play, including slots and casino games; the amount that has to be staked is surprisingly little for many of these, and with some promotions they don't cost anything at all!

The smoking ban may have started the ball rolling when it comes to the decline of the bingo hall, but the success of online bingo could seal its fate, and it could be possible that not too far into the future people will talk of bingo halls with the same nostalgia as they once did for music halls.

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