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Caledonia's mammoth Gala takeover reflects bingo's popularity

F February 25, 2016
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Years ago, bingo was something your grandma took you along to when you were off school at half term. Now, it’s a game that’s seemingly played by everyone, with Rebel Bingo in particular sparking an experimental upheaval of the game’s rules among the younger clientele.

Bingo’s rapid image change, which has seen it transformed from a pastime for pensioners to a bona fide social sensation – both online and offline – has now been vindicated in financial terms, with investment group Caledonia shelling out £241m to purchase Gala Bingo’s 130 clubs.

Gala Bingo, the UK’s biggest operator, is currently included under the umbrella of Gala Coral, the bookmaker who look set to merge with fellow industry giant Ladbrokes in a huge deal for the betting sector.

Despite the large outlay from Caledonia, punters will see little change in their bingo-playing activity, with clubs retaining the Gala name, management being retained and galabingo.com not being subject to the terms of the deal. It is understood that the 4,000 staff currently employed by Gala are not at risk of losing their jobs.

Instead Caledonia will work closely with Gala to try and improve the share of the market – currently 38%, with over one million members – that the operator holds. The deal recognises bingo’s upsurge in popularity over the last decade or so, with Caledonia seeing it as a safe investment due to its ubiquity across the UK and the steady cashflow the business brings in.

Caledonia’s head of unquoted investments, Duncan Johnson, a former board member at Gala Bingo, commented: “Gala Bingo is well known to Caledonia’s unquoted investments team. Its defensive, enduring business model, which delivers strong cash generation and dividend yield, fit ideally with the investment criteria sought by Caledonia.”

Carl Leaver, CEO of Gala Coral added: “We are very pleased to have agreed the sale of Gala Retail, following a competitive process. The sale is another transformative step for Gala Coral Group, following the turnaround of the business over the past few years.”

Leaver’s terminology – especially the words ‘transformative’ and ‘turnaround’ – could also be used to describe the fortunes of bingo. Now, eyes down - the next number is…

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