The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) recently declared a Mecca Bingo ad as ‘irresponsible’ and barred it from reappearing. The ad, posted on Instagram by the British bingo operator, was found to imply that gambling could enhance one’s self-image or self-esteem, violating the Committees of Advertising Practice (CAP) Code.
Controversy and Context
The ad featured RuPaul’s Drag Race UK star, Baga Chipz, in ‘before’ and ‘after’ images, suggesting a transformation before and after playing Mecca Bingo. While Mecca Bingo argued that the ad portrayed the transformations commonly seen in drag entertainment, the ASA concluded it suggested gambling could improve personal qualities.
ASA’s Verdict and Resolution
The ASA ruled the ad as irresponsible, emphasizing that it conveyed the message that gambling could enhance self-image or self-esteem, regardless of the context understood by some viewers. Consequently, the ASA prohibited the ad from appearing in its criticized form and engaged with Mecca Bingo to prevent similar issues in future campaigns.
The eagerly anticipated annual cross-industry initiative, Safer Gambling Week, is set to ignite the United Kingdom and Ireland from November 13th to 19th this year. As the 2023 campaign unfolds, it builds upon the resounding success of the past five years, where support and awareness have surged to new heights.
Highlights and Triumphs from Safer Gambling Week 2022
The accomplishments and milestones from the 2022 campaign are nothing short of remarkable:
Safer Gambling Week 2022 shattered previous social media records, amassing nearly 30 million impressions on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram – a 21% increase from the previous year.
Polling revealed a significant boost in awareness of safer gambling tools post the Week. For instance, awareness of a timeout or cool-off period rose from 30% pre-SG Week to 34% post.
Renowned figures, including former gambling minister Damian Collins MP, Shadow Gambling Minister Alex Davies Jones MP, and others, threw their weight behind the campaign.
EGR hosted a Safer Gambling Forum, providing a platform for the industry to share knowledge and best practices on safer gambling, with insights from leading charities in the sector.
Sporting icons, such as former football manager Harry Redknapp and ex-Celtic striker John Hartson, lent their support through videos promoting safer gambling.
Unprecedented Industry Support Continues
Safer Gambling Week maintains unparalleled support across the industry, spanning online platforms, bookmakers, bingo clubs, casinos, and arcades. This inclusive approach encompasses operators affiliated with sector trade associations and those operating independently, forming a truly pan-industry campaign.
Aiming for Widespread Impact
Safer Gambling Week strives to reach the broadest possible audience, fostering conversations about safer gambling. Engaging with support agencies, customers, operators (both land-based and online), influencers, the general public, associations, media owners, training organizations, and government agencies, is at the core of its mission.
Safer gambling materials, including key messages and information, are poised to grace both physical venues and online platforms. Extensive coverage of the campaign is anticipated in the news, on social media, and partner websites. Complementing this, gambling businesses and leading charities such as GamCare and YGAM are organizing training sessions and events.
Europe’s largest online bingo platform, Tombola, has raised alarm bells as it faces the potential loss of 250 jobs. This predicament follows a takeover by the renowned betting conglomerate, Flutter. Individuals privy to the matter have disclosed that management at Tombola, headquartered in Sunderland, recently informed staff about the looming job cuts, primarily affecting members of the customer experience team. Tombola, a company with a workforce of 700 in the UK, organized a meeting for the affected employees last Friday.
Flutter’s Commitment to Redeployment
Flutter, the global betting giant, which acquired Tombola for £402 million in late 2021, has pledged to explore opportunities for redeployment within Tombola and across the group. Specifically, Tombola’s chat moderators, integral to the customer experience team, have been notified of an impending reduction in roles from 250 to just over 100. Other segments of the customer experience team, encompassing customer support and “safeplay” advisers, have also been cautioned that their positions may be in jeopardy.
Efficiency Drive and Eliminating Duplication
According to an insider familiar with Flutter’s strategy, the job cuts aim to enhance efficiency and eliminate any redundancy in customer support roles, particularly in comparison to other Flutter subsidiaries like Paddy Power and Sky Bet.
Tombola’s Response and Regulatory Climate
Tombola issued a statement acknowledging that it had “communicated a number of proposed changes to our customer service teams following an extensive operational review.” The company highlighted its commitment to offering opportunities for staff redeployment within the business but added that these changes might inevitably lead to redundancies.
These potential job cuts occur in the backdrop of early indications of a slowdown in the UK online betting sector, driven by impending regulatory reforms. The UK government has announced plans to address problem gambling, including financial affordability checks for certain customers and stake limits on online slots. With ongoing consultations on the horizon, the future of the industry remains uncertain. Some major players in the market, like 888 and Entain, have already reported adverse effects on their operations due to these regulatory reforms.
Analysts eagerly await Flutter’s third-quarter results, expected in early November, to gauge the impact on UK revenues. Despite the challenges, some experts, such as those at Jefferies, anticipate continued momentum for Flutter’s UK sales. In the previous year, Tombola posted sales of £117 million and a pre-tax profit of £25 million. In the first half of this year, Flutter’s UK and Ireland division, which includes Tombola, reported £396 million in adjusted earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization, showing growth from the previous year.
The Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office has initiated the process of closing down numerous electronic bingo halls throughout the county, starting this week. While many of these bingo halls appear abandoned, some continue to operate despite the enforcement actions. We interviewed one owner situated just north of Tarrant, who expressed surprise at the county’s decision and indicated their intention to remain open until forced to close.
County Commissioner Takes a Stand
County Commissioner Jimmie Stephens has firmly stated, “I can assure you we will not issue any more bingo licenses or bingo permits.” He believes that these establishments introduce various issues into local communities and has received numerous complaints over the years. Stephens shared a concerning incident: “I received a telephone call from a constituent who was actually talking about a prostitute walking down the road and crossing through her yard from a bingo operation just south of Bessemer. So let’s hope and let’s pray that this does make a difference and it is just the beginning of the end.”
Legal Scrutiny and Law Enforcement Efforts
The issue has also drawn the attention of the attorney general, who, back in April, collaborated with several law enforcement entities to shut down 14 different bingo and alleged gambling operations in Jefferson County. Many of these businesses are currently entangled in legal proceedings. Commissioner Stephens now anticipates that, with expired business licenses, the sheriff’s office will take a more proactive role in addressing the issue.
Stephens emphasized, “There has been constant contact with the AG’s office, and one of our pleas to the sheriff to get his cooperation is to keep the attorney general down in Montgomery and let us enforce our own laws.”
The Sheriff’s Office issued a statement on Monday, confirming the county commission’s decision: “The Jefferson County Commission voted that electronic bingo facilities with business licenses that expired on September 30, 2023, will not be renewed. That means as of October 1st, we are following the directive of the county commission to make sure those facilities are in compliance with the law.”
Arizona Veterans and State Agencies Clash Over Bingo Machines
In Phoenix, tensions rise as Arizona veterans’ groups and state agencies find themselves at odds over electronic bingo cards and alleged illegal bingo machines.
The Bingo Technological Aids Debate
Local American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars members, along with Republican Senate Majority Leader Sonny Borrelli, claim that the departments of Revenue, Gaming, and Liquor have been overly aggressive in their crackdown on organizations using bingo technological aids (BTAs). These electronic bingo cards, designed to assist players with disabilities, have been legally in use since 2017. State agencies argue that they are not targeting BTAs but are concerned about the use of bingo gambling machines, which resemble slot machines and can be operated without other players.
Legal Complexities and Allegations
While bingo is legal in Arizona, it must be overseen by licensed game conductors who follow specific Department of Revenue rules. Possessing a bingo gambling machine is illegal and can result in a class two misdemeanor. Borrelli expressed frustration, alleging that a letter sent by the departments on Sept. 1 was threatening organizations hosting bingo with criminal prosecution and intimidation by their gaming agents. State agencies responded by clarifying that no criminal prosecution threats were made, and their aim is to assist organizations in complying with the law. They also warned that venues with liquor licenses could face revocation if they knowingly allow illegal bingo machines on their premises.
Veterans Express Concerns
During the news conference, veterans voiced concerns about the conduct of inspections by state agents. They argued that the agents should focus on helping local posts running bingo games correct infractions rather than being overly aggressive. Jim Zawacki, a veteran and Arizona VFW member, emphasized the vital role bingo revenue plays in supporting local posts, assisting members, and contributing to the community. Other veterans at the conference highlighted how bingo game revenue funds initiatives like school supplies for children, food donations to local food banks, and support for organizations like MANA House, which aids homeless veterans.
Christian Slater, a spokesperson for Gov. Katie Hobbs, clarified that the state agencies aim to prevent the exploitation of veterans and older Arizonans using bingo machines, rather than preventing organizations from generating revenue for the community. Slater criticized Senator Borrelli for what he saw as prioritizing unregulated gambling over assisting non-profit organizations in compliance with the law.
Northumbria Police made a startling discovery when responding to a report of “suspicious activity” at the old Orion Bingo Hall located on Stamfordham Road in Westerhope. Officers arrived at the scene on Tuesday afternoon to find what appeared to be a clandestine cannabis farm containing approximately 150 plants.
Immediate Dismantling of Suspected Cannabis Farm
Upon uncovering the suspected cannabis operation, law enforcement wasted no time and promptly dismantled it. The incident has sparked an active investigation into the matter, with police officers remaining in the area to conduct further inquiries.
Appeal for Information
A spokesperson from Northumbria Police urged anyone with information related to this case to come forward and assist in their ongoing investigation. Individuals can provide information via the ‘Tell us Something’ page on the police website, quoting log NP-20230918-0401.
On September 1st, Granite State Bingo opened the doors of its brand-new bingo hall at the Lilac Mall, situated at 5 Milton Road in Rochester. This exciting move marks a significant transition for the organization and its dedicated charity operators.
From Dover to Rochester: A History of Charitable Impact
For the past seven years, Granite State Bingo, led by organizer Susan Monaghan, had been serving the bingo-playing community in Dover. Over this time, they catered to a staggering 30,000 players annually and played a pivotal role in supporting local nonprofits. Since 2016, this bingo hall has contributed nearly $900,000 annually to these vital organizations.
Susan Monaghan expressed her enthusiasm about the move, saying, “We look forward to fostering a strong partnership between the residents of Rochester and the nonprofits we serve as we open the doors on this new, larger bingo hall. For many of the nonprofits I work with, charitable bingo revenue is the lifeblood of their organizations and the services they provide. If we couldn’t find a new home, those services would be in jeopardy.”
Supporting Local Causes: A Commitment to Charity
Granite State Bingo is committed to supporting the community by partnering with seven charity organizations, each representing a day of the week. These partners include Dover Youth Hockey, Triangle Club, Dover Loyal Order of the Moose, Saint Ignatius Parish, Dover Rotary Club, My Friend’s Place, and Victims Inc. In the future, Granite State Bingo plans to expand its charitable reach by inviting one or two additional nonprofit operators through a Saturday matinee event in the coming months.
After over 20 years as the manager of Premier Bingo on High Street, Cowdenbeath, Thomas Wilson is poised to reopen the bingo hall following its sudden closure due to the company’s administration. Wilson, determined to breathe new life into the venue, has secured the lease and has even initiated an online fundraiser, garnering substantial support from the community.
Community Support and Detailed Plans in the Works
Thomas Wilson, who managed the bingo hall for a quarter of a century, expressed his commitment to his loyal customers. Through social media, he revealed his intention to revive the beloved establishment and has already received generous contributions through the fundraiser. Wilson plans to share more comprehensive plans with the Cowdenbeath Bingo Club community on Facebook in the near future.
“I used to be the manager for the last 25 years, and I am using all my resources to do this for the customers,” he explained. “The bingo is much more than a gambling establishment; it is a family. Me and all the staff have all been here long-term. Some of the girls have been there 20 to 30 years. We know everybody, and that is who I am doing it for. I am doing it for the customers and the fantastic team of staff I had.”
Legalities and a Bright Future
While the reopening of the bingo hall is imminent, there are legalities to address before the grand reopening. In the interim, club bingo may be on offer until the necessary licenses are obtained. Wilson assured the community that the bingo hall would be back in action, though not necessarily on a daily basis, until all regulatory requirements are met.
The closure of the Cowdenbeath bingo hall in August coincided with the shutdown of Premier Bingo establishments in Alloa and Perth.