Revamped venue is a win for bingo fans
MOST MPs are used to facing a hostile crowd when they stand up in the House of Commons.
However, Swindon North MP Justin Tomlinson came up against potentially his toughest audience yet last week when he was invited to Gala Bingo to call the numbers.
The company invited him to draw the numbers in front of a packed house to show him the new refurbished building, which regularly attracts 3,500 players each week.
Justin said: “This is one of the most nerve-wracking things I have done. Speaking in parliament is tough but nothing compared to this.
“I have been busy practising the calls because if I make one mistake that’ll be it. I’ll never be forgiven.
“This Gala is one of the flagship venues in the country and they have done a fantastic job with the refurbishment.
“Bingo is a growing industry that provides a lot of jobs which is why the government was delighted to cut duty by 10 per cent earlier this year.”
Bingo has a reputation of being an activity for the elderly and retired but Swindon is proof this has changed.
While there are still many elderly people who head down to play during the day, in the evening the venue typically sees a lot of people under the age of 30 heading down.
Manager Steve Rogers said: “Bingo is a great pastime which has shaken its traditional image and is now for people of all ages.
“It is a fun and safe activity that is quickly growing more popular. In Swindon, there are not many other places around here which is why we get more than 3,400 people a week.
“The duty cut is a big boost that will provide a big boost for the industry as a whole.”
Gala employs 35 staff members who cater for customers who play throughout the day.
Marlene Noyce, 56, who lives in the town centre, said: “I have been coming for years with my husband and today my daughter has come along.
“It’s good fun to play as well as being a sociable activity that you can spend time with friends and family.”
Sheila Skeffington, who travels from Watchfield, said: “I have always found it a really good afternoon out.
“It’s relaxed and sociable. What could improve it is if I won a bit more money.”