I might be scraping the bottom of the barrel a bit for positive bingo news here, but i’ve found something.
Amidst the seemingly never ending succession of bingo hall closures in recent times, a new bingo venue is going to open in Swindon town centre.
Is it going to be a grand bingo hall in a beautiful repurposed old building, I hear you ask?
Well, no; it’s an old Cafe Nero that has been empty for 2 years, and it’s being taken over by Shipley’s who run the Adult Gaming Centre next door.
It is going to be turned into an adjoining bingo lounge to expand and improve what the business already offers in that location.
There is already a bingo hall in Swindon, a Buzz on the other side of town, but the difference between them is huge.
This one is fully digital.
What is a Digital Bingo Lounge?
You might not have come across them before, but these bingo lounges are growing in popularity.
They are a bit like miniature versions of a bingo hall, but the game is being run from a studio somewhere and live streamed to the screens in bingo lounges all over the country.
So you can still go and enjoy a few games with your friends, but you won’t get the same sort of interaction with the caller, or that personal touch you get with a traditional bingo hall.
That’s jot necessarily a bad thing though, as it means these bingo lounges are a bit more relaxed. You can come and go as you please, play as few or as many games as you like, and chat without getting dirty looks from Susan at the table opposite.
The Shipley’s version has a bit of an added benefit though, because the company do run a few of their own more traditional bingo halls, so they understand the needs and wants of players very well, and will be doing all they can to create the atmosphere of a bingo hall within their lounge.
Plus, there will be the Shipley’s gaming centre right next door, so anyone wanting to play slots etc can just nip over for a change of pace.
Council Decision and Public Reaction
The new bingo lounge very nearly didn’t get the go ahead, as the town council were wary of having too many gambling establishments in a small area, especially with that area being the middle of town.
However, as a Shipley’s spokesperson said:
“The proposal will replace an established adult gaming centre operating from part of these premises.
“Therefore, the number of betting and gambling outlets in the area will remain at four and will not increase to five. Furthermore, the bingo use has distinct characteristics.”
So it is more like the extension of an existing outlet rather than the addition of a new one.
You get the impression that the council would have preferred something else to go in there, but with the unit having been vacant for 2 years, they couldn’t really look a gift horse in the mouth*.
The council’s planning officer said:
“The authority considers it regrettable that this unit would not be retained [as a café] or made to a retail unit to promote some diversity in the immediate area, and unfortunate that the proposals would add to a concentration of gambling uses within this area of Bridge Street.
“However, on balance, the change of use of the ground floor unit to a bingo lounge is acceptable in planning terms. This is on the basis that; it would not result in the loss of an existing retail unit nor worsen the existing retail situation in this location.”
The local population seem split 50/50 on the decision, with some stating that more gambling venues are not what the town needs, and others saying the shop is better off being used than being empty.
A few have even commented saying that they will give it a go, but they aren’t convinced about the all digital side of things.
That’s progress for you, Swindon!
*Don’t Look a Gift Horse in the Mouth” is a phrase meaning you shouldn’t question the value of something that is a gift. It dates back to when people used to look at a horse’s teeth to judge its’ age. A gift horse would be a free horse, so looking in its’ mouth (to study its teeth) would be ungrateful. There you go, you learn something new every neigh. I mean day.