Bingo Clubs

Oral Answers to Questions — Home Department – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 5 May 1983.

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Photo of Mr Ivan Lawrence Mr Ivan Lawrence , Burton 12:00, 5 May 1983

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what consideration he is giving to possible changes in the law relating to bingo clubs.

Photo of Mr David Mellor Mr David Mellor , Wandsworth Putney

We are prepared in principle to accept the proposal made by the bingo trade association for a new joint game with a maximum prize of £50,000. The details of how the games are to be played and controlled will be discussed by the Home Office and the Gaming Board with the associations.

Photo of Mr Ivan Lawrence Mr Ivan Lawrence , Burton

Is my hon. Friend aware that that reply will be welcomed by many of those who enjoy the completely harmless pursuit of playing bingo in bingo clubs, and that the provision of that happiness is a substantial social service? Is he further aware that during the past year there has been a decline of about 13 per cent. in attendance at bingo halls and that many halls are threatened with closure? In addition to increasing the prize money, will my hon. Friend also consider removing some restrictions on advertising?

Photo of Mr David Mellor Mr David Mellor , Wandsworth Putney

I am glad to know that my hon. and learned Friend spends his afternoons so profitably. There has been a reduction in attendances at bingo halls. The Government believe that bingo halls provide a valuable social club atmosphere for many of our fellow citizens, with nearly 360,000 people attending daily last year. We are considering ways in which we can work with the associations, but any proposals must be compatible with our overall policy of ensuring that the social element rather than the prospect of financial gain predominates.

Photo of Patrick Cormack Patrick Cormack , Staffordshire South West

Is my hon. Friend suggesting that it is part of the Government's duty to encourage people to gamble at bingo?

Photo of Mr David Mellor Mr David Mellor , Wandsworth Putney

No. The Government's view has always been that we should not encourage a growth in gambling, but now that attendances are declining and a reasonable proposal has been advanced to allow the associations to re-attract some of the trade that they have lost, it would be wrong, and would damage the interests of those who enjoy bingo, to stand in the way of any such proposals.