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Archive: Delta Done — bingo hall closes

Originally published Feb 17, 2006

The last dab at Delta Bingo Centre will take place Feb. 22 as a province-wide decline in bingo revenues claims the local hall as one of its victims.

In the space of a year, nearly one-quarter of the bingo halls in Ontario have closed.

Last year at this time, there were approximately 125 halls in operation. As of last month only 90 remained.

Community Gaming and Development Corp. manager Russ Wilson said the local decline is mostly attributable to the U.S. currency exchange rate.

“We’ve gone from a U.S. dollar that was $1.53 down to a dollar that’s only $1.17,” he said

“With $56 or $57 million in gross revenues and 75 per cent of that American, it’s a huge amount of revenue loss.”

But declines in attendance due to additional border security measures, Customs work slowdowns, anti-smoking legislation, increased competition along with short-term hits caused by terrorist attacks and the SARS outbreak two years ago exacerbate the problem.

Delta Bingo has been particularly vulnerable running only 771 event in 2005 compared to sister hall Uncle Sam’s which ran 2,524 events and the Golden Nugget’s 1,545.

Wilson roughly estimates the halls earn an average of $500 per event which is determined by a “huge formula from the Province” based on revenues.

The CGDC and the bingo sponsors associations don’t expect a dramatic impact on bingo revenues over all, he said.

Large numbers are expected to migrate to Sam’s and the Golden Nugget, “but we’ll know better with a couple of months under our belt,” he said.

“People will argue there’s not as many event slots now for groups to fill. But what mitigates that is the existing slots will make more money. Groups will reach their budgets faster and that frees up events in the end,” he said.

Hall owner Duncan Cameron was not available for comment.

Bingo groups are bracing for a “worst-case” 30-per cent drop in attendance when a full ban on smoking is implemented June 1.

“We’re planning for the worst,” Wilson said. “If it doesn’t happen, it’s a bonus.”

Coun. Rick Shular, who is Town Council’s representative on the gaming corporation board, said the Camerons endured a worsening situation when they were probably justified in closing a year ago.

“I’m hoping in my heart it’s a positive move that players will go to the other two halls and we’ll retain market share,” he said.

Improvements on the plazas at the Peace Bridge “and overcoming other baloneys like work stoppages and traffic checks” will help, he said.

“Even though we’re seeing drastic improvements, people are saying, ‘Hey, it’s not worth the effort’,” he said.

The Province’s discussion paper on the modernization of charitable gaming and the policies that will emanate from it will have a great effect.

Shular said an enhanced ability to market bingo with advertising and promotions is an important aspect especially with Fort Erie bingo in the heart of a multitude of gaming operations.

Local input through seats on provincial committees and boards will help protect the industry in Fort Erie, he said.

“Council is really going to have to look at gaming because a lot of people have hung their hat on it,” he said.

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