Despite employing stringent safety measures, UK bingo venues are still suffering from a lack of visitors, prompting calls for players to return and rediscover the lure of the hall. The question is: will the new normal allow a full house?
Bingo hall managers across the country have expressed their concern over the lack of visitors returning in person to the game, citing the ample measures in place to protect players.
Though operators are aware that the majority of the game’s core demographic are also the age group most at risk, venues are keen to encourage players back to the new Covid-secure tables.
“We need the regulars to return and for others to come and see how safe it is.”
McCracken’s concerns echo those of Sean Connolly, general manager of Buzz Bingo Blackburn, who recently assured the Lancashire Telegraph “we are safe and want to welcome our customers back.”
“All our staff have had full Covid-19 safety training and are putting thought into how people sit and ensuring nobody is held up in queues. But, I think with lockdown, people have been fearful of coming out and we want to reassure them they are safe at bingo.”
Though the game itself proved an evergreen favourite during the height of lockdown, with bingo played from balconies and driveways bringing whole streets together, the lure of the hall is evidently less attractive in the wake of warnings around gatherings and social activity.
Online bingo, already demonstrating significant growth pre-Covid, has also been a major beneficiary of the restrictions, with players both old and new turning to bingo sites for entertainment and a sense of community, potentially undermining the hall’s appeal.
With clubs such as the 1,400-capacity Mecca Norwich now welcoming a maximum of 200 per session, there is understandable anxiety as to the future of bricks-and-mortar bingo venues.
However, the bingo hall’s function as a community hub is undeniable, and should restrictions ease in time for venues to remain open, that function may well be the sector’s saving grace.
“When we had to close because of Coronavirus, I really missed talking to people,” added McCracken. “When we reopened, you noticed the noise, people who didn’t usually talk were chatting to each other.”