Independent bingo halls across Scotland have finally been offered a lifeline to help them survive the COVID-19 pandemic until they can begin trading again.
The Bingo Association launched its “Bingo is My Lifeline” campaign back in October 2020, appealing to the government to give bingo clubs financial assistance, as well as treat them the same as other independent entertainment venues. The campaign’s website also called on bingo players to complete an email template and send it to the government direct.
It has taken nearly six months for a funding support announcement to be made, but it still comes as welcome news as it means that certain bingo venues are now able to apply for grants of up to £50,000.
Councillor Mark Findlater of Aberdeenshire Council was instrumental in helping the Bingo Association’s campaign gain traction in his local area after he became increasingly concerned that bingo clubs in areas such as Inverness, Elgin, Buckie, and Fraserburgh, had received no financial assistance from the Scottish government even though similar venues such as cinemas had been given funding.
He consequently appealed to Kate Forbes – Scotland’s Cabinet Secretary for Finance – to ask that she approve discretionary funding for bingo halls that have been forced to stay closed due to COVID-19 national lockdowns and local restrictions.
The current furlough scheme has been helping bingo clubs to cover staff costs since their doors shut last year, but independent venues have been desperate to obtain additional funds to pay for maintenance, building leases, and ongoing running costs.
Miles Baron, the CEO of The Bingo Association, has now confirmed that following the success of the Bingo is My Lifeline campaign, all licensed bingo halls in Scotland are eligible for “a one-off grant in recognition of the challenges caused by their sustained closure over the last year”. It is also hoped that clubs will be able to reopen on 17th May as lockdown restrictions continue to be eased.