A SCOTS bingo hall is to build a giant smoking shelter outside which will allow customers to have a cigarette while they play.
Customers will be given handheld devices so that they can keep track of the numbers while they are outside.
The Mecca Bingo in Edinburgh’s Leith is only one of the clubs that has been hit hard since the smoking ban came into force in 2006.
And the new shelter is seen as the bingo-giant hitting back.
But anti-smoking groups said that the club was encouraging customers to
“gamble with their life.”
Mecca owner Rank Group plans to spend 60,000 on the new shelter.
Planning permission was granted in November and Mecca gained permission from the city’s licensing board this week to extend the area in which gambling can take place to include the new smoking shelter.
The shelter will be a 7ft-high wooden fence outside the rear of the hall.
Linsay Robertson, 32, said:
“I think it’s a good idea and a bad idea. I think it will alienate some people but it will also give people the opportunity to smoke which is what people did at bingo halls.
“But it will also separate the smokers from non-smokers which is also what people go to bingo halls to do – to socialise. “
Another Mecca Bingo member commented:
“I wouldn’t go and play outside. I just go out and have a cigarette and then come back in again. “
But some councillors on the board opposed the plans.
Labour member Eric Barry said:
“This actually goes against public health by allowing people to spend longer in a smoking area while playing this game.
“I cannot agree that we should allow something that is purely exploiting a loophole from something we have previously discouraged. “
Sheila Duffy, chief executive of Ash Scotland, said:
“They are being resourceful because many bingo clubs have lost money from customers going outside to smoke.
“But smoking is gambling with your life and one in two smokers lose so it would be great if Mecca would also display the Smokeline number or the contact details for the local stop smoking service as well. “
Many residents nearby have also expressed concerns about noise levels.
Stephen McGowan, who represented the Rank Group at the licensing board meeting, said:
“With the smoking shelter, we are seeking to reduce the amount of discomfort there may well be.
“There will be no public address system or speakers in this area. And as part of these changes we are creating a noise lobby as internal double doors will be closed, so we are actually reducing the [noise] problem. “
Councillor Marjorie Thomas, leader of Edinburgh Council’s licensing board, said:
“I do think that I am quite satisfied that all the measures put in place would seem to have done as much as they can to ensure amenity for the neighbours.
“If there are noise issues, we can look at that from the alcohol licence side of things [in future]. “