Call to save local bingo club

The owner of the Borders’ only bingo club has said that if a new call for funding proves fruitless, the business would struggle to survive the Covid-19 pandemic.

By Kevin Janiak
Monday, 25th January 2021, 5:12 pm
Ryann Stisi in the empty bingo hall in Galashiels.
Ryann Stisi in the empty bingo hall in Galashiels.

Ryann Stisi, owner of the Border Bingo Club in Galashiels, says that while the Pavilion Cinema, with which he shares the prominent Market Street building, has received more than £200k in grant funding from the Scottish Government during the various lockdown restrictions, while the bingo club has received nothing.

The Bingo Association in Scotland has launched a campaign to save such clubs, warning that heading down for a game of bingo could become a thing of the past.

Mr Stisi said: “Pavilion Bingo Club has been in my family for 21 years and is the only bingo club left in the Borders.

“Since the beginning of the pandemic, I’ve been crying out for support from the Scottish Government, but nothing has arrived.

“Without funding, it will be a struggle to survive.

“And it’s not just me who will suffer – it’s my amazing employees, the local businesses who supply our bar, and of course our fantastic customers who come from all over the region to play bingo.

“In normal times, I put on 10 free buses a week to get them to the club – because they love it so much and it’s so important for them to have a safe space to socialise.

“What makes it harder to swallow is that I share my building with a cinema, and they’ve received lots of funding from the Scottish Government to help them survive.

“I’m happy for them, but I don’t understand why the Government has decided that one form of entertainment is more important to save than another”.

Miles Baron, chief executive officer at the Bingo Association in Scotland said: “Bingo clubs have been entertaining a largely working-class female demographic since the 1960s and contribute significantly not only to our local economy, but also to our local communities where they provide schemes intended to address the social isolation of many of our customers.

“It is therefore extremely difficult to explain to our valued customers, and our employees, why their pastime and job is seemingly of less importance to save than other entertainment and hospitality businesses, many of whom have received significant funding from the Scottish Government.”