Eyes down in battle to save bingo hall

Kings Bingo Hall in Gainsborough.  Pictured front is Duty Manager Sue Ollerton  G111128-1a
Kings Bingo Hall in Gainsborough. Pictured front is Duty Manager Sue Ollerton G111128-1a

A ONCE-THRIVING bingo hall and well-known Gainsborough landmark is struggling to survive.

King’s Bingo Hall, previously known as King’s Theatre and the Albert Theatre has been on Trinity Street since the 1800s and has been used as a bingo hall for over 50 years.

Kings Bingo Club, Gainsborough G110624-1a

Kings Bingo Club, Gainsborough G110624-1a

Now, with dwindling customers in the face of adversity, it seems the hall has seen better days - and they need your help to keep going.

Owner Roger Whitnall said that a number of factors are having an adverse effect on business at King’s Bingo.

“Without the support of Gainsborough residents, we won’t be here for much longer,” he said. “There’s just a lack of customers and the whole town is struggling.”

“We need about 300 customers a week but we’ve been down to about 160 recently. We’re not afraid of hard-work but we’re just losing so much money and nothing seems to be working.”

Kings Bingo Hall in Gainsborough  G111128-1c

Kings Bingo Hall in Gainsborough G111128-1c

Roger said that the hall - which employs nine people - had been a favourite spot in the town for many years, and urged residents to get behind it.

“We used to get about 160 people in on a Sunday night, and I’d love to return it to it’s former-glory days,” he said.

“The smoking ban hasn’t helped, and internet bingo is also taking a lot of customers away from us plus the recession hasn’t been kind to people around here.”

Roger said that he, the staff and the regulars, think that King’s Bingo offers an experience that you won’t find anywhere else.

King's Theatre on Trinity Street from years gone by, supplied by Gainsborough Heritage Association

King's Theatre on Trinity Street from years gone by, supplied by Gainsborough Heritage Association

“It’s a relatively low-cost evening’s entertainment in a secure and friendly environment and a great way to socialise,” said Roger.

“The nearest bingo hall outside of Gainsborough would be Scunthorpe and our customers just can’t travel that far at night.”

He added: “We have higher win-ability potential and I see us as more of a community club.”

“I’m not here to make a killing - I just want to make a living. It’s an uphill struggle.”

Opened as the Albert Theatre by James Marshall in 1885, the building has seen many changes - becoming a bingo hall in 1967.

Margaret Orton, 84, from Kexby, has been coming to King’s Bingo for over 50 years.

“It’s always been a great place to come to for good company,” she said. “We come here for a cheap night out with friends and it’s more fun than going to the pub.”

“I remember when we used to have to queue up down the street years ago, but now people just don’t seem to have the money to spend really - it’s such a huge shame.”

Fellow bingo enthusiast Carol Golland from Waterworks Street, Gainsborough, has also been frequenting the night-spot for several decades.

“There isn’t anywhere else around here to go,” said Carol. “Without it we’d have to go to Lincoln or Scunthorpe, and I wouldn’t travel anywhere else.”

She added: “It would be a massive shame if we were to lose it.”

Duty manager Sue Ollerton has worked at the hall since 1975.

“It’s just gone downhill,” she said. “The smoking ban hit us hard and people just don’t have much money at the moment.”

“Years ago, we’d have nearly 200 people in here and we’d be packed - it’s just the regulars in their tens. Everything is just dwindling away.”

She continued: “It’s a lovely place to work and we’re all like a nice little family really.”

“We’ve had some good times and some sad times, but we always get through them. So many would miss this place if it went.”

As well as urging local residents to make the most of the club, owner Richard Whitnall would also like to encourage any local entrepreneurs who’d like to get involved to get in touch.