Smoking Bans and Bingo Don’t Mix

History has clearly shown that smoking bans and bingo do not mix. Bingo is extremely popular in the UK and millions play land based and internet bingo every week. It has been estimated that there are over three million regular bingo players in the UK. In 2006 a very controversial law was passed in the UK that banned smoking in confined public places. The law went into effect in 2007 and the effects on the bingo industry were immediate. Some bingo halls reported a 60% decline in the number of players attending games. Many bingo halls were forced to close and hundreds of bingo hall employees lost their jobs.

Before the ban went into effect most bingo halls, pubs, clubs and other establishments had nonsmoking areas set aside for the comfort of nonsmokers. Under the law even nonsmoking areas are prohibited. Smokers are allowed to indulge in their habit outdoors and some bingo halls set up outdoor smoking areas. Unfortunately these could only be used for part of the year and once cold weather made its appearance the outdoor areas were empty. The inconveniences caused by the smoking ban caused many players to switch to internet bingo. One enterprising operator had bingo cruises outside of British territorial waters where players could smoke legally. The operation did not last long and the cruises were ended.

In the United States smoking bans were passed on a state by state basis. Some states made exceptions for businesses patronized by smokers such as bars, bingo halls, casinos and other establishments with a high percentage of smokers. In those states bingo halls were unaffected and player numbers remained the same. Other states passed across the board smoking bans. In those states many bingo halls closed and charities had to find other funding sources. In one Ohio parish the parochial school was forced to raise tuition and cut scholarships for disadvantages students. In some states the laws were passed by deceitful methods. Ohio voters thought there would be exceptions in the smoking ban but the exceptions were removed without the knowledge of the voting public.

In Canada smoking bans took their toll on bingo halls across the country. In Canada bingo halls partner with charities to hold games and charities in Canada were deeply affected by the smoking ban. So far bingo halls in the UK are the only ones that have managed to survive and actually increase business. UK bingo operators decided to add modern technologies and revamped their bingo halls to attract young nonsmoking players. The example of British operators shows that even with strict smoking bans in place there are still ways to keep players coming back for more bingo.