Over the years many people have waxed lyrical about the pros of online bingo over the land-based bingo experience and with the current global pandemic, the ability to play from the comfort of your own home whilst shielding or furloughed has been added to the list. However, this pro has come with a heavy price for the retail bingo industry, as we were saddened to read of the impending closure of 26 Buzz Bingo halls.
Buzz Bingo is the re-branded name of Gala Bingo retail; a change that took place in September 2018. Whilst Gala still have an online presence, they are no longer part of the land-based bingo landscape. Buzz Bingo is also available to play online too.
It was announced on 15th July that 573 jobs were at risk as the company announced 26 permanent closures. This leaves just 91 venues operated by Buzz Bingo up and down the country.
Like all other retail venues, the bingo halls were closed on 21st March 2020 when the government announced the lockdown measure but unlike Wetherspoons, Buzz Bingo furloughed their staff. It’s understandable that without footfall through the doors the company would not be able to maintain all of the clubs as lockdown was lifted. Additionally, with social distancing measures to contend with, player numbers are not likely to be what they previously were when clubs do open on August 6th.
The 91 clubs that will remain open will have a restructure according to the Chief Executive, Chris Matthews. This is to ensure that they are able to adapt to the new safety measures.
Mr Matthews was reported by the BBC as saying “The ongoing pandemic has had far-reaching consequences for the entire leisure and hospitality sector and an immediate and significant impact on our business”. He went on to say that the restructure of the retail portfolio is planned “to ensure we are well positioned for a return to growth, while adapting to the ongoing, challenging environment as we start to reopen the majority of our clubs”.
Buzz Bingo halls to close
Even when reopening happens, with the largest demographic of the land-based bingo hall industry potentially being in the high-risk categories, the venues aren’t going to instantly see players returning to their local bingo clubs.
The 26 venues that are set for closure are:
- Derby Foresters
- Edinburgh Wester Hailes
- Milton Keynes
- Oxford Kassam
- Southampton Antelope Park
- Stockland Green
- Wigan Robin Park
The Chatham venue is one of the 26 that is set to close and it has quite a long history. It was first opened as a cinema in 1937 and continued as one until 1972 when it was closed and converted into a bingo hall.
When it opened as a cinema it boasted 2,300 seats and featured bright Art Deco decoration as well as a café and restaurant for its patrons.
When it became a bingo hall it was taken over by EMI before Gala Bingo took over. A fire destroyed it in 1998 and whilst the Art Deco frontage was saved, an over zealous whack with a wrecking ball brought it all tumbling down. It was in early 2000 that the brand new, purpose built Gala Bingo venue opened to players.
This is the history of just one of the 26 venues on the closure list. Each will have it’s own story to tell and sadly bingo is likely to become just another page in the history book.
The online arm of Buzz Bingo will no doubt continue to enjoy its success and if you haven’t yet registered with the brand, there is plenty of positive points to consider.
As a new player you are eligible for a bingo bonus on your initial deposit and the site offers a variety of ongoing and time-limited promotions to enhance your online gaming experience.
Editor in Chief
Nickie Shute is the Editor in Chief of Best Bingo Websites and a leading expert in online bingo.
Nickie has been writing and contributing to the online bingo world for over 15 years and cut her teeth writing for bingo affiliate websites, as well as owning her own white- label bingo site.