One in 10 bingo halls in Scotland has shut since the smoking ban was introduced last March, figures compiled by The Herald show. The number will soon be far higher, unless the government grants the industry multi-million-pound tax breaks.

This was the message yesterday as Mike Lowe, operations manager of small independent Premier Bingo, urged the Scottish Parliament to support the industry's campaign against "unfair taxes".

Lowe presented a 1500-signature petition to Holyrood ministers from Premier clubs in Kirkcaldy, Cowdenbeath and Edinburgh, calling on them to "support bingo in local communities". Bingo regularly attracts 300,000 players in Scotland, most of them female.

There were over 80 bingo clubs north of the border in Spring 2006, generating business worth £300m and employing 3500. About one-third were owned by parties other than major leisure groups Gala Coral, Rank and Inverness-based Carlton.

Since then, independent clubs have closed in Lossie- mouth and Nairn in the Highlands, while Premier has closed clubs at Denny, Stirlingshire and Kirkcaldy, Fife.

Last month Carlton blamed the smoking ban when it shut a club in Grangemouth. The company pointed to the fact that players who previously spent their entire evening at bingo were arriving later, leaving earlier and popping out at the breaks for a smoke. Carlton had earlier closed a club in Edinburgh in the wake of the ban's introduction.

For some operators "main stage bingo" has become a loss-leader, with operators generating their profits from slot machine use in the gaps between games. In addition, the 2005 Gambling Act will soon force them to remove high-jackpot machines from their clubs.

Market leader Gala Coral, which has 29 bingo clubs in Scotland, has shut one of the 10 clubs it acquired last year from rival County Bingo in a £64m deal. The company had promised to keep all bingo halls open after refurbishing them. Nine months after the takeover, however, a club based in the former Lyceum cinema at Govan was closed.

Rank, meanwhile, which owns the Mecca brand, has said its turnover is down 15% in Scotland since the smoking ban, with profits hit even harder. It also, however, increased its market share, suggesting other operators, particularly the small independents, have borne the brunt of the decline.

Yesterday Rank gave an early indication of what is to come in England and Wales when the smoking ban is introduced there in July. The company is closing nine of its 112 Mecca clubs, all of them south of the border, as it anticipates an inevitable downturn in business.

The bingo industry nationwide is calling for a VAT exemption on its "retained stake", the cash which goes to the operator when winnings have been paid out.

Lowe said: "The industry in Scotland needs the Scottish Parliament and Executive to recognise this plight and use their influence to press the UK government into action."