December 10, 2009 12:00 AM

Paul Rowen MP at MECCA BingoThe Chancellor of the Exchequer, Alistair Darling, has announced plans to reduce bingo duty from 22% to 20% in the Pre-Budget Report.

In his last Budget the Chancellor had increased the tax on bingo winnings from 15% to 22%, making it the most heavily taxed form of gaming. Earlier this year Rochdale MP Paul Rowen helped to set up a campaign to reverse this increase which he said would lead to more bingo halls closing across the country. Over 700 players and staff at Mecca Bingo in Rochdale signed up to Mr Rowen's campaign. Mr Rowen then wrote to the Chancellor calling on him to reverse the increase.

This news comes after an Independent Report by Ernst & Young LLP was published in October showing that the increases in bingo taxation was placing an additional burden on the industry and that bingo operators of all sizes, including Mecca Bingo in Rochdale, were adversely impacted. The report also stated that to achieve the exchequer yield anticipated in the 2009 Budget, the tax should have been set at 18%, and not 22%.

Rochdale MP Paul Rowen said: "I am pleased that the Chancellor has backed down and has made this concession over the level of bingo duty. However I feel he should have reduced it even further to at least 18%. This would have been in line with the recommendations of the independent report. The tax has caused many bingo halls to shut down, impacting the older, mostly female clientele, for many of whom bingo is not just a game. Bingo clubs are a valuable institution in the local community, creating jobs and providing people of all ages with a place to socialise and relax.

"I have received hundreds of letters from frequenters of Mecca Bingo in Rochdale on this subject. People rely on bingo as a central part of their social life and I hope that this cut in taxation goes some way to relieving the heavy financial burden the Government has placed on bingo clubs up and down the country."