When will bingo halls reopen?

When lockdown was declared and quarantine measures were taken, bingo halls were one of many establishments that had to close in order to minimise the spread of Covid-19 and considering the gravity of the global pandemic, this was a sensible and justified decision.

Recently, more and more venues have been opened including restaurants, cafés and cinemas for example. This was necessary since the smaller establishments would not be able to survive for much longer with no business and it was doing no favours for the economy either.

Bingo halls, which were originally included in the businesses that could reopen, are still closed however, so when will they open again? At first, Boris Johnson stated that bingo halls would be allowed to reopen along with other businesses like restaurants.

As such, the thirty six bingo halls that would be allowed to open underwent rigorous measures to make sure that the reopening would not endanger anyone. These measures included training for the staff members so that they are well aware of how the bingo halls should run, as well as more advanced cleaning routines, making sure that that all tables, machines and any other points would be sanitised and disinfected.

Not only that, hand sanitisers stations had been introduced into bingo halls and all players would have had to clean their hands when they entered and exited the venue. Social distancing would also be guaranteed, with clear signs indicting the spaces the players should leave between each other.

On top of this, a maximum number of players would be permitted entry, meaning that the number of people in the bingo halls would always be capped at a reasonable amount. Contactless devices would be put at the disposition of players to again minimise any contact with others and it was clear that bingo halls were taking all the necessary precautions to justify their reopening.

However, Boris Johnson declared on the 31st of July that there will be a delay in the easing of lockdown, and therefore the opening of casinos and bingo halls will be delayed a further two weeks.

The Betting and Gaming Council, that has been trying to get the halls and casinos to reopen since mid-June, when they implemented all of the safety measures, at a non-negligible cost and effort to the casinos and bingo halls, were unhappy with this decision.

The head of the Council, Michael Dugher tweeted this: “it’s clear decisions are being taken when [members of the department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport] aren’t even in the room.” He was pleased with the first date of the 1st August for the reopening and so was understandably upset with the decision, especially considering its proximity to the date.

It is difficult to determine whether this decision is reasonable or overly cautious. Of course, although it is frustrating, players and companies alike would understand delaying the reopening if it were to save lives, there is no question of that.

Two weeks however seems a relatively trivial amount of time, in the sense that it is unclear what the prime minister is hoping to change in this period of time. Bingo halls and casinos alike have clearly demonstrated the fact that they are taking the pandemic seriously with all the safety measures they have carried out, and it is confusing that other non-essential businesses have been allowed to reopen.

It is true that two weeks is a short amount of time and that it will not have the biggest impact, but bingo halls are losing money and their staff are currently unable to work because of this.

In Scotland, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon declared that pubs, museums, cinemas, hairdressers and restaurants would be allowed to open from July 15th as well as holiday accommodation but that bingo halls, live entertainment venues and nightclubs will be delayed further.

Bingo halls are hardly the same as nightclubs and safety measures are far easier to implement in a bingo hall. It is very frustrating for both players and bingo hall staff, but considering the health of nation is being prioritised, it is slightly understandable. The same principles should be applied to all businesses similar to bingo halls however.