Jobs at Portsmouth bingo hall safe as Budget keeps club open

Picture: Malcolm Wells

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A DELIGHTED bingo club manager has told 25 members of staff they will not be made redundant next month, due to a change in tax policy.

Chancellor George Osborne announced the cut in bingo duty from 20 per cent to 10 per cent on Wednesday during the annual budget statement in Parliament.

PLEASED Gary Bell, general manager of Crown Bingo

PLEASED Gary Bell, general manager of Crown Bingo

Following the surprise move, the owners of Crown Bingo in Kingston Road, Buckland, decided they would not be shutting the doors on April 6.

Peter Arnett Leisure had been relying on its clubs in Cosham, Gosport, Havant and Bognor Regis to subsidise the Portsmouth site, which opened 25 years ago.

The company’s general manager, Gary Bell, says 25 employees will now be able to continue working at the club, which has 500 regular visitors.

The change in the levy will save the business approximately £200,000 a year.

‘Up until Wednesday, we felt we were losing money left, right and centre with the bingo club in Portsmouth – there was no hope, really,’ Gary said.

‘We took the decision at the beginning of the year to close. In the meantime, the industry put together a petition to get a reduction in the duty down to 15 per cent. Around 300 clubs signed up as well as us.

‘The 10 per cent announcement has been enough for us to keep the business open.

‘As much as that means we can keep the doors open, it is not enough to save the club itself, but it is enough for us to make some investments to hopefully modernise things and help it move forward.’

Gary said the savings should help secure the future of the club through long-term investment.

But he said because the company owns its buildings, there is ‘always a cheque to pay’ for general upkeep.

Asked what he thought about the announcement, he said: ‘It’s fantastic. So often there is nothing that really helps, but this is great news.

‘Twenty-five members of staff who were going to be made redundant still have jobs and 500 regular customers can still come to the club.’

During the statement last week, the chancellor said: ‘Bingo duty will be halved to 10 per cent to protect jobs and communities.’