Gaming firm to close clubs ahead of UK smoking ban

Gaming firm Rank said today it planned to close nine Mecca bingo clubs ahead of the introduction of a nationwide smoking ban in the UK.

The planned closures are expected to take place over the next few weeks and will affect 230 jobs, although Rank said it hoped to relocate some of the staff to nearby clubs.

The sites are at Fulham and Islington, in London, Reading, Kingston-upon-Hull, Liverpool, Sheffield, Swansea, Welling and Wolverhampton.

Rank, which will still be the UK’s second largest bingo club operator with 103 clubs, said the decision was made as part of its preparations for this summer’s introduction of smoking bans in England and Wales.

Evidence from Scotland, where a smoking ban is already in force, suggests that bingo operators face a tough time as players opt for outdoor smoking breaks rather than spending more money on mid-session interval games.

Rank pointed out that it owns the freeholds on five of the sites, allowing it to use the proceeds from property sales elsewhere in the Mecca business.

It added that most of the sites were near to other Mecca bingo clubs.