The Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) has urged the Business Secretary Alok Sharma to block the ‘unfair and unnecessary’ closure of betting shops and casinos across the country, citing concerns over potential mass job losses.
Across Lancashire and Liverpool, and soon to include Wales and potentially Greater Manchester, betting shops have been included in the list of businesses having to close in areas placed under Tier 3 coronavirus restrictions – the only part of non-essential high street retail having to do so.
In his letter to the Secretary of State, BGC CEO, Michael Dugher, said: “There are currently just over 6,700 shops employing nearly 40,000 staff across the country, the majority of which are female.
“The singling out of betting shops for closure is unfair, unnecessary and runs counter to the sensible approach the Government had previously adopted. This decision looks ill-informed, arbitrary, and along with plans to close COVID-secure casinos (that had offered to give up selling alcohol) it frankly looks anti-gambling industry.
“It will have a hugely negative impact on our businesses and staff, despite their efforts to ensure a very safe environment for customers that is well beyond any other non-essential retail business.”
Betting shops were permitted to reopen on 15 June following a three-month lockdown in England, and have since imposed a number of stringent anti-COVID measures such as perspex screen, social distancing measures and track and trace systems.
However, following the introduction of the new three-tiered system in England, betting shops and casinos in Tier Two fear that they may have to cease trading within a number of days.
The BGC has also written to local leaders in Tier 2 areas urging them to oppose the forced closure of betting shops and casinos due to the lack of evidence that they spread the virus.
Dugher pointed towards research carried out by the government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE), which has previously described non-essential retail as having a relatively low impact on the spread of coronavirus.
He added: “I therefore would like to ask for your support to intervene on behalf of betting shops, an important part of high street retail and an industry that contributes over £3 billion in tax every year.
“I share 100% of the Government’s determination to tackle the spread of COVID. The decision to close betting shops won’t help with that, but it does put in jeopardy an industry that will be much-needed to help power the economy and the Exchequer to recovery.”