A CAMPAIGN to ensure future full houses at Bolton's bingo halls is being backed by MP David Crausby.

The Bolton North-east MP visited Mecca Bingo in Breightmet with local councillor John Byrne to discuss worries that unfair taxation and the forthcoming smoking ban could hit the industry hard.

While bingo pays gross profit tax like other gaming industries, it also has the added burden of VAT.

And with many players also smokers, bosses fear their revenue could be hit when the ban on smoking in enclosed public places is introduced on July 1.

Hundreds of Bolton players have put their names to a national "Stop Destroying My Bingo" petition.

Mr Crausby went to the bingo hall to pledge his support for the campaign to abolish VAT on bingo, and says he may put forward an Early Day Motion in Parliament.

"Bingo is a fairly harmless business and I don't see why it should be treated differently from the rest of the gaming industry," he said.

"The smoking ban will have an economic effect on bingo and is one reason we should give our support on the question of double taxation - but it would need the Chancellor to do something about it in a budget."

"We can't do anything about the smoking ban now. I had my doubts at one time but in the long run it will be seen as a good thing because more people will stop smoking and fewer will start.

"But we should recognise that, in the medium term, it is bound to be quite hard for businesses like bingo and we should do all we can to help."

The smoking ban, which starts on July 1, has been welcomed by bingo players.

Smoker Gemma Higginson, aged 21, from Radcliffe, said: "It's good that people will not be able to smoke in the bingo hall. There are no windows and and it does get very smokey. I don't mind having to go outside to smoke."

Her mum and non-smoking bingo partner, Yvonne Higginson, said: "The smoke can be choking and it's not fair on the non-smokers and staff."

l Will the smoking ban kill of the bingo trade? Join the debate by visiting www.theboltonnews.co.uk