Popular bingo chain Buzz Bingo has announced that it is closing 26 of its UK venues permanently.
The Nottingham-based company announced today that it will be closing dozens of venues across the UK, putting almost 600 jobs at risk. The company, which closed the venues back in March for the UK’s COVID-19 lockdown, blamed the “unsustainable operating environment for the foreseeable future” as the reason for the closures.
According to the BBC, the venues set to close include Banbury, Boston, Bournemouth, Bridlington, Carlisle, Chatham, Chorley, Cramlington, Derby Foresters, Edinburgh Westerhailes, Harpurhey, Hereford, Kilmarnock, Milton Keynes, Oxford Kassam, Salford, Southampton Antelope Park, Stockland Green, Tamworth, Wednesbury, Weymouth, Wigan Robin Park, Wolverhampton, Worcester, and Wythenshawe.
However, the remaining 91 Buzz Bingo venues will continue to trade and the company is planning on a staggered re-opening from August 6th beginning with 12 venues.
Buzz Bingo Chief Executive Chris Matthews released a statement to all affected employees and customers, saying: “We know how disappointed this news will be – especially for those of our customers who are losing their local club, and of course, our colleagues – we know that we are more than just a club, we are part of your community, and for that, I am really sorry.”
Matthews also explained that it will take some time before footfall at its venues increases to pre-virus levels due to current social distancing measures as well as a lack of customer confidence. He said: “The ongoing pandemic has far-reaching consequences for the entire leisure and hospitality sector and an immediate and significant impact on our business.”
However, Matthews is planning a “restructure” of its retail venues to ensure that the company is “well-positioned for a return to growth, while adapting to the ongoing, challenging environment as we start to reopen the majority of our clubs.”
Speaking about Buzz Bingo’s closures, Melanie Leech, the Chief Executive of the British Property Federation (BPF) told the BBC: “These situations are never easy, particularly now for the retail, hospitality, and leisure business on our high-streets at the sharp end of the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Buzz Bingo is a rebrand of the former Gala Bingo company and operates. The rebranded venues opened in 2018 as part of a company-wide restructuring and marketing overhaul. Although many of of the real-life Buzz Bingo venues are shutting, the company’s online gambling websites, like most other online casinos, continue to trade as normal.
Casinos During The COVID-19 Lockdown
Although much of the UK has slowly been re-opening with social distancing measures since the end of the UK’s lockdown, casinos and nightclubs across the country have been told to remain under lockdown for the foreseeable future.
On July 11th, the UK government allowed outdoor pools, sports pitches, and open-air performance venues to open. This was followed by beauty salons, tattoo parlours, and tanning rooms on July 13th, and gyms and indoor swimming pools will reportedly open on July 25th.
However, casinos have not been given any notice on potential re-opening dates despite urgent calls from the Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) as well as key industry workers.
Earlier this week, the BGC published a statement from Matt Rudd, the General Manager of the Broad Street Grosvenor Casino in Birmingham. In the statement, Rudd spoke of the difficult decisions being made by casino managers across the nation to reduce the financial damagers amid the pandemic.
“I’m the General Manager of our Grosvenor Broad Street casino in Birmingham and have worked here for the past six years,” Rudd’s statement reads. “I’ve seen a lot of change in that time, but the past few months have been the most challenging of the lot. On top of that, the past few days and weeks have been among the most perplexing as I’ve watched other venues re-open their doors.”
Rudd then explains that the casino has implemented a number of changes to ensure that the venue is safe for customers at re-opening. The changes include the widespread provision of social distancing measures and signage, and the installation of Perspex dividers between gaming tables, slots, and electronic roulette terminals.
Hand sanitizer has been delivered to the casino and protective equipment and clothing have been put in place to protect both employees and customers. The casino also has new COVID-secure measures regarding the handling and cleaning of gaming chips and cards, and it is compliant with the government’s Track & Trace programme.
“I’m adding my voice to the thousands of others by asking the government to allow us to re-open our casinos as soon as they possibly can,” he said.
“I’m also acutely aware that our customers are eager to return. In recent days I’ve been fielding more and more calls from many of our regulars who also can’t understand why casinos haven’t been allowed to re-open. I am confident that they will like what they find when we are given the green light.”
He ended the statement by saying: “I know I’m not alone in feeling a bit frustrated, and I know that nothing is more important than the safety of our colleagues and customers. But the longer we remain closed, the more anxious I become. I gather the visit, a few days ago, to our Rialto casino in Central London from various government officials went well, so I’ve got my fingers crossed that we receive some good news really soon.”
The Open Letter
According to SBCNews, Rudd’s statement comes days after the BGC published an open letter to Chancellor Rishi Sunak, regarding the lack of communication over the re-opening of casino venues across the UK.
Highlighting the casino industry’s contribution to the UK’s economy, BGC Chief Executive Michael Dugher said in the letter: “Casinos want to get back in business and once again contribute to the economy, not costing the Exchequer money. Last year, casinos paid over £5.7 million in tax per week.
“With phased reductions in wage support kicking in soon, there is however a real fear that if re-opening doesn’t happen in July there will be severe damage caused to the casino industry.”
He continued: “To our knowledge, casinos have met all COVID safety requirements and yet they are still not permitted to open. We urgently ask for your help to get casinos re-opened and back to contributing to the UK economy. We would greatly appreciate any help you can give to get our businesses back open and contributing to the UK economy.”