How the Smoking Ban in England Affected Bingo

On the 1st of July 2007, the smoking ban in England came into effect after legislation was passed in the 2006 Health Act. This was after smoking bans were already enforced in the rest of the UK as Scotland imposed a ban in March 2006, in Wales and Northern Ireland in April 2007. Bingo halls across the country were concerned about the impact this would have on their business, and since 2007, there has been a noticeable decline in the number of people visiting bingo clubs. Find out more about how the smoking ban in England affected bingo below.

How the Smoking Ban in England Affected Bingo

The Introduction of the Smoking Ban in England

Before the smoking ban was introduced, there were growing concerns in the UK over second-hand smoke and the negative health consequences that it could contribute to. What’s more, many people who did not smoke also wanted to enjoy their time indoors at venues such as restaurants and bars without breathing in smoke.

The first rumblings of a ban began in 2004 when a white paper for public health was published that proposed a ban on smoking in public workplaces. However, the government faced pressure to do more and introduced a ban on tobacco advertising in 2005. The official ban on smoking indoors was then introduced as part of the 2006 UK Health Act and the ban came into effect on the 1st of July 2007. For many venues, this was not an overnight ban as they had already banned smoking from their premises due to customer complaints.


Why Was Smoking Banned in England?

The negative effects of smoking became a concern back in the 1970s, however, there were many campaigns carried out to prevent smoking from being banned. More and more studies began to be released showing the connection between passive smoking and serious medical conditions such as heart disease, disability and cancer.

As the dangers of passive smoking became more well-known, many people decided that they were no longer going to be spending their leisure time at venues where lots of people would be smoking. This led to many businesses taking pre-emptive measures to ban smoking before any ban was implemented.

After the ban came into effect in 2007, it affected many bingo halls and pubs across the UK. There were discussions that the ban would be reviewed in certain industries but this was squashed by the government in 2010.


The Effect on Bingo Halls

The smoking ban had a hugely detrimental effect on bingo halls across the UK as this was a venue where many players would enjoy smoking whilst gambling. This resulted in many bingo halls being shut down as players opted to stay home rather than stand outside in all weather to smoke.

Even the big bingo brands in the UK were not spared from the devastation of the smoking ban on bingo halls. Mecca Bingo closed nine halls because of the smoking ban and Gala Bingo also had to close the doors of many of its bingo halls.

Government Tax Cuts

To try and help salvage the situation with bingo halls after the smoking ban, the tax on venues was halved. This went from 20% to just 10%. However, this did not seem to make much difference to the number of bingo halls that eventually closed their doors.


Why Did Players Stop Visiting Bingo Halls After the Smoking Ban?

There are many reasons why players stopped visiting bingo halls after the smoking ban was introduced in 2007. Some of the top reasons included:

  • A divide in players into the smoking and non-smoking categories made socialising harder
  • Players could not enjoy smoking at the same time as eating and drinking
  • Bingo halls became emptier as many people stopped attending after the ban was introduced
  • Designated smoking areas were placed outside that had to be used in every type of weather, including the cold and rain which is very common in the UK and not particularly pleasant
  • As players would have to smoke outside, they would miss bingo games. Not only would this negatively impact the player’s experience, but it also meant fewer bingo ticket sales for the bingo hall

Other players who were non-smokers found that the smoking ban had positive effects such as:

  • Players didn’t leave with their clothes smelling of smoke
  • It was an incentive for many smokers to quit the habit
  • It provided a fresher environment to play in

Overall, the impact the smoking ban had on the social aspect of bingo halls negatively changed players experience, which resulted in a decline in footfall.


The Impact of Online Bingo

At around the same time as the smoking ban was introduced, the world of online bingo was taking off. Now that many players could no longer go and smoke at their favourite bingo venue, they could instead play bingo online from the comfort of their homes and smoke while doing so. This theory was supported when the online bingo player figures were released, showing that it had increased by 80%.

Online Bingo Bingo Hall
Bingo games can be enjoyed from your couch You will need to go out in every type of weather to your local bingo hall to play
You can enjoy smoking while playing You can only smoke in designated areas outdoors
Big welcome bonuses and promotions Bonuses and promotions are not as large as what is available online
The opportunity to connect with players around the world The same crowd of players every week
Large prizes as there are more players to pool together jackpots Smaller prizes as there are a more limited number of players
Bingo games are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week Set bingo times and opening/closing of the bingo hall
Eat and drink when you want Can only eat and drink during breaks if you do not want to miss out on bingo games
Numbers marked off automatically Players must keep track of the numbers as they are called


As you can see, there are a number of advantages that players can enjoy when playing online bingo vs playing at a bingo hall. This helped contribute towards the decline of bingo halls.

While there is no doubt that the smoking ban introduction had a large impact on bingo halls and their rapid decline, it could also be argued that other factors would have eventually had the same effect and resulted in bingo hall closures. With rising prices of nights outs, the start of television streaming companies and the advancement in technology of online bingo, there are many factors combined that would have negatively impacted bingo hall footfall and business.

Last updated: Jan 24, 2023

Lillian Grey

183 Articles

Lillian Grey is a long time online bingo and slots player who started putting her thoughts down on digitial paper around 2008. Having been covering the industry for quite some time, she is able to spot the good from the bad when it comes to online bingo. An ever present at indsutry conferences and events, Lillian likes to meet fellow bingo enthusiasts to share stories and ideas, with maybe a glass of wine (or two) involved! When not covering the ever changing world of online bingo, she likes to read a good book and go for family walks in the forest.

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