Hundreds of Scottish betting shops are set to reopen their doors, a move which has been welcomed by the Betting and Gaming Council (BGC).
Since the strictest Level 4 COVID-19 restrictions were imposed by the Scottish government three weeks ago, approximately 400 betting shops – half of Scotland’s total – were told to close their doors.
The decision to move the 11 affected areas into Level 3 and allow betting shops to reopen has come as a great relief to both the betting industry and the economy in general.
BGC Chief Executive Michael Dugher said: “It’s great news for staff and customers that betting shops can open their doors again.
“They have introduced a range of anti-Covid measures, including Perspex screens, hand sanitisers and strict social distancing rules, so they are a safe environment for people to work and enjoy a bet. But so have casinos, so they should be able to safely open their doors again as well.”
Around 2000 members of staff earn their living in Scotland’s betting shops, and the businesses also contribute more than £50 million a year in tax to the Treasury.
The horse racing industry will also benefit hugely from this decision, as Scottish betting shops pay £13.5 million to horse racing through the betting levy and broadcasting rights.
But despite welcoming the Scottish government’s decision, the BGC has also called for casinos to reopen in Level 3 areas due to the extensive anti-Covid measures that the venues have put in place – with a lack of evidence suggesting that they contribute to the spread of the virus.
Dugher added: “The economic contribution betting shops – and casinos – make in terms of tax paid to the Treasury, as well as the jobs they provide, will be vital as the UK recovers from the impact of the pandemic.
“Betting shops’ contribution to horse racing – which has suffered financially as a result of the ban on spectators – also cannot be overstated. Scotland’s five racecourses have taken a huge hit due to the pandemic and we are delighted that revenue from shops can now flow through to the racing industry.”
The BGC is not alone in calling for greater government action to provide financial support to the betting and horse racing industries. Earlier this year representatives from the British Horseracing Authority, Jockey Club and Horsemen’s Group formed a “steering group” calling for reform of the betting levy – which currently sees 10% of betting companies’ profits channelled back into horse racing – in light of the significant financial impact COVID-19 has had on the sport.