Letter: Bingo need not fear the National Lottery

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The Independent Online
Sir: In 1961 when the new Gaming Act allowed Bingo to be played commercially, I was the person who wrote the original Bingo manual used by the industry, and introduced commercial Bingo to the public. Eventually, as chairman of Mecca, I was running over 150 Bingo halls, the largest circuit in the country.

I, of course, am not running Bingo today but I cannot avoid commenting on your article 'Losing combination in a game of high stakes' (26 May) in which Gail Counsell focuses attention on those who will be the losers because of the National Lottery.

I believe Ms Counsell has been accepting too much of the anti- National Lottery lobby's propaganda when she forecasts that Bingo will see pounds 3m, or 4 per cent of turnover, disappear when the Lottery starts. We heard all the same predictions when the Pools came out with million pound jackpots, and National Premium Bonds with draws for one million pounds, etc, etc. Bingo went on and all the experts' forecasts of doom were proved wrong.

Although Bingo is technically gaming, in practice there is not much of a gamble in it. In the main, people go for company. It is a night out when they can meet and chat, have a drink and, most of all, have a few hours away from the telly. The amount you can spend is limited by the number of books you can play at any one time.

Mrs Jones in Manchester has pounds 1 to spend and buys a lottery ticket. Not a soul has any interest in Mrs. Jones, and the odds on her getting a return are astronomical. If she spends her pounds 1 in a Bingo hall she meets and chats with friends and has an entertaining night out. She may not win pounds 1m, but she could win lots of prizes and she knows of people who have won thousands at Bingo. Perhaps her turn will come. Personally, I do not think the Lottery will make a scrap of difference to Bingo.

Yours faithfully,


London, W1

26 May