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Lucky days run out for city’s second last bingo hall

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    Under the B, bye-bye.

    Lucky Days Bingo, one of only two bingo halls left in London, is calling it quits after 40 years in business, a casualty of dwindling attendance and rising costs.

    Lucky days run out for city’s second last bingo hall Back to video

    “We would’ve liked to keep going,” said Mark Rogers, the business co-owner, “but we just have come to a point where it’s not financially viable anymore.”

    “We have 10 years of attendance data that show nothing but a decline, and there’s just no reason to be optimistic to think this would change,” he said.

    Once a mainstay of small-time gaming in Ontario, bingo halls combined the thrill of a shot at a small pot of money with the social atmosphere of playing the games with friends.

    Londoners Debbie Liscombe and Ann Awcock usually play bingo every night, 1989. (London Free Press files)

    All you needed was your bingo dauber to mark the game cards as the numbers were called out.

    Once very profitable, Rogers said things began to go south in the bingo industry after the NDP government of then-premier Bob Rae moved in 1993 to open Ontario to casino gambling.

    The province’s first casino began in a former art gallery in Windsor.

    More casinos followed, including at horse racetracks like the one in London, along with online gaming.

    It wasn’t long before bingo halls like Lucky Days began bleeding players to the glitzy new competition.

    “If you are at the Western Fair’s slot machines on a regular basis, you were probably a bingo player prior to that and you were probably my best customer,” Rogers said.

    In its heyday in the late 1980s and early ’90s, Rogers estimates there were about 220 bingo halls in Ontario, including at least eight in London.

    Bingo was often also played at social clubs.

    On a regular weekend night, Rogers said his hall would easily attract between 250 and 275 people.

    On a good night now, by contrast, they’re happy to get 175.

    It’s the weeknights, however, when the drop is most noticeable.

    “We could always count on 125 or 130 people on those quieter nights,” Rogers said.

    “Those quiet nights, the Mondays and the Tuesdays, have never been quieter.”

    Under the B, bye-bye.