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Thursday, 18 December 2014

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Cumbrian MPs turn bingo callers

It was eyes down for a full house – House of Commons that is...

Tony Cunningham bingo photo
Sir Tony Cunningham MP and Jean Phillips celebrate her win

Bingo callers at two games in Carlisle and Workington were none other than local MPs.

Carlisle’s John Stevenson and Sir Tony Cunningham, Workington’s MP, rose to the challenge as part of a campaign by the Bingo Association to lobby the government to reduce tax on gambling.

In Carlisle, Mr Stevenson went to Opera Bingo in Denton Holme where he made one bingo player’s day by calling the winning numbers for a £160 prize.

“It was my first experience of bingo in a bingo hall,” he said. “I’ve played it before but never anywhere like that.

“It was an interesting experience, it’s a huge hall.”

Mr Stevenson said he was supporting the bingo industry campaign to cut tax from 20 per cent to 15.

Campaigners want tax brought into line with other popular leisure pursuits, with other gambling activities taxed at 15 per cent.

“I’m supporting the campaign,” Mr Stevenson said. “I think it should be a level playing field. If bingo halls become more popular because of the reduced cost, the tax paid could go up [because of the increase in revenue]”.

Mr Stevenson said bingo halls were important as social destinations as well. “They bring people together, it’s a social atmosphere, people make friends,” he added. “You often find women feel safe going there on their own, which is rare.”

In Workington, Jean Phillips, 76, of Firth View Walk, won £160 in a special game of bingo, at Opera Bingo when Workington MP Sir Tony Cunningham called the winning numbers of 2, 30, 42, 54, 85 and a boost number of 45.

Mrs Phillips, who has been playing the game for more than 20 years, said: “I need my roof fixed so I will most probably use the money towards that. My friend Audrey and I don’t normally come on a Friday but we heard that Sir Tony was coming along.

“I feel very lucky to have won from the numbers he called out.”

The national campaign has been set up by the Bingo Association in an attempt to lobby the Government to reduce tax from 20 per cent to 15 per cent on its gambling activities. The association says that lowering the duty would lead to investment, modernisation and jobs.

Around 400 different bingo clubs around the country aim to collect one million signatures.

Manager Glen Buckley said: “If we had that extra five per cent we would be able to reinvest in the fabric of the club to make it a better facility for our players.”

Sir Tony, whose mum Bessie, 85, has been playing bingo for more than 30 years, said: “I am supporting the campaign. Bingo provides a great atmosphere for these women and is a great place for them to socialise.”

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