Budget 2014: Why Bingo and Beer Tax Advert is Not Patronising
Budget 2014: Why Bingo and Beer Tax Advert is Not Patronising Reuters

As the dust started to settle on UK Chancellor George Osborne's pugnacious Budget 2014 announcement, Britons found something to be outraged about despite the coalition's new policies being, surprisingly, anti-big business.

It wasn't anti-big business in the sense of the Coalition wanting to rid the country of corporate Goliaths, but more in the sense they issued a range of "doer, makers, and savers" policies that immediately hurt companies.

For example, pension reforms and annuity scrapping immediately hacked off 14% of Legal and General's share price, while gambling taxes punched a hole in the market capitalisation of some of the UK's biggest bookies.

But what were Britons so irate about?

Was it the fact that new taxation changes basically undo a lot of what green campaigners have been asking for (bigger business investment tax allowance versus a cap in the carbon price floor)?

Or was it because the income tax threshold changes will not make much of a difference to most of the country because the average pay packet is still not in line with inflation?

No, it's because the bingo tax and penny off a pint was "patronising".

Predictable Blood Spitting

In a predictable deluge of digital blood spitting, Newsnight watchers and social media chatterati slammed the bingo and beer tax advert (above) as being "patronising to the working class" and "typical Tory", which really only shows me that it kind of doesn't matter what policy is passed, as long as it's not the Conservatives.

Of course, it doesn't make a difference when Labour urges to cut the price of the pint as well, but because the Conservative party passed it, it must be a damaging out-of-touch take on what the working class really want.

It also doesn't matter that The Bingo Association collected more than 330,000 petition signatures and the support of a more than 50 politicians for the proposal.

So, judging by the court of public opinion, no one in Britain really likes to gamble or drink beer either.

Let the Data Do the Talking

So people don't like to gamble, huh?

That's interesting considering Britons gambled £5bn on high-speed, high-stakes gambling machines alone and the left-leaning Guardian newspaper's Datablog analysis showed that in 2012, "northern, urban cities and London boroughs with high levels of unemployment bet four times more on gambling machines than richer rural areas in southern England where jobless numbers are low." [Figure 1]

As of that year, there were 9,128 operating betting shops in 2012 with an average of 3.65 fixed-odds machines each.

So how about bingo? Nobody in the UK likes that right?

Gambling Commission figures show that with real life bingo, with a main stage, mechanised and seaside-style prize bingo, turned over £1.22bn a year.

The Bingo Association says there are about 400 halls in the UK although this has halved from a decade ago due to the surging popularity of playing online.

Osborne revealed that taxes on bingo halls are to be halved, from 20% to 10%, while bingo hall operator Rank Group announced plans for three new clubs following the announcement.

Meanwhile, according to bingo portal site whichbingo.co.uk, there are around 350 online sites for this game alone and around nine million Britons play via the web.

According to the North West Public Health Observatory, "the consumption per head is highest among men in lower paid employment."

Figure 1
Figure 1 Guardian - Data Blog