In the year to June 30 Mecca Bingo’s attendance figures have fallen by 7% which is probably a bit alarming for the chain’s owners, The Rank Group. In some ways this was good news however, as the first quarter showed a fall of 10% which may partially been down to the great summer we had.
Despite the drop, Owners Rank remain committed to a small expansion, and refurbishment of several current venues. The budget taxation change has obviously had an effect on this, without which we may have been looking at more Mecca closures.
They are again revisiting the notion of coming up with new ideas to bring bingo into line with the challenges currently facing the gaming and leisure industries, as with harsh competition arising from the still lagging economy are forcing more operators to ‘add value’ to their products (yes, I know, if you read the papers you will hear that the UK’s economy is recovering, but a walk down most high streets tells a different story…).
The taxation cut in the last budget may be a last opportunity for the UK’s bingo industry to get it’s act into gear, and offer something new that will reverse the trend of falling attendance. Mecca Bingo tried this a few years ago with their Full House concept which they abandoned after finding that the money the had invested in their pilot clubs did not translate into the black on the balance sheets.
Both Mecca and Gala Bingo chains are operated by owners who can keep their clubs afloat in hard times due to their more profitable operation of both online and land based gambling outlets. Having said that, Gala Coral are reportedly closing some of their bookmakers who are experiencing the industry wide decline in profitability of operations traditionally based on the horses, so the ‘parachute’ may not always be there.
Attendance figures go up, and they go down, nothing is constant, that is the nature of things. The seven percent drop may or may not be a warning shot across the bough, but with Gala Coral selling off their bingo division and with continuing bingo hall closures despite the tax reprieve, now is definitely a turning point for the bingo industry.
Mecca are going to invest in the development of new concepts, which is probably the best way forward, although with venues of their size they have to hit it exactly right as an expensive roll out could prove disastrous over the long term if their investment doesn’t bring in new players.
We wish the brains behind Mecca all the best with any new concepts that they do launch, be it under the Mecca banner or otherwise, as with the uncertainty of what will arise out of the Gala Clubs’ sale despite the budget news, land based bingo is still far from ‘out of the woods’. Original article.