The UK government has announced that all non-essential services – including betting shops – will receive direct cash payments of £6,000 per site in ‘recovery grants.’
Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak, made the announcement ahead of the confirmation of the country’s national Budget this coming Wednesday. As part of the plans, a grant scheme totalling £5 billion will be directed towards the revival of the UK’s high street shops.
Non-essential retailers – such as betting outlets – will be eligible for grants of up to £6,000, whilst hospitality, accommodation and leisure venues will be able to apply for cash injections of £16,000, as these businesses will remain closed for a longer period of time under the government’s lockdown exit roadmap.
The reopening of non-essential retail businesses will form phase two of the government’s strategy, with the venues able to unlock their doors on 12 April, on the condition that vaccine rates continue to rise whilst hospitalisations remain on the decline.
Calls from the Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) and other industry figures for the Grand National – taking place on 10 April – to be delayed to coincide with the reopening have been rebuffed.
The recent announcement was welcomed by the BGC, with a spokesperson reported in the Racing Post as saying: “The BGC would warmly welcome any additional support for betting shops, be that business rates or grants, particularly giving the pressure independent betting shops are under.”
In a letter to the Chancellor, BGC Chief Executive, Michael Dugher, remarked: “By any measure, the betting and gaming industry is an important contributor to Britain’s economy. It is our hope that the forthcoming Budget will be a springboard to recovery as the country begins to emerge from the COVID-19, unlocking the potential of our high street businesses to return to growth and job creation.”
However, in his own five-point plan for industry recovery, Dugher has called for an extension of business relief rates by another year, to further ease the pressure on betting shops and casinos.
“With premises shut for much of the past year, this would help protect jobs and remove a major financial pressure on businesses that have suffered a significant loss of income during the pandemic,” the Executive added.
As well as the UK government, the request has also been issued to the devolved administrations in Scotland and Wales. Dugher continued: “The UK Government’s backing for business stands in stark contrast to the refusal of the devolved administrations in Wales and Scotland to offer business rates relief to our members.
“This has sadly had a disproportionate impact on our smaller independent businesses, many of them family run, which have faced making staff redundant and an uncertain future.”
Additional requests include a call for an end to the 10PM curfew on the night time economy once casinos and hospitality venues reopen on 17 May and for no further increases in taxes and duties.
Citing the ‘torrid year’ of 2020, which saw total gross gambling yield fall by £1.6 billion as well as the beginning of the government’s ongoing review of the 2005 Gambling Act, the BGC has called for ‘a period of stability and certainty.’
Additionally, the trading body has once again highlighted that the betting and gambling industry ‘is eager to play its part in the recovery,’ and pointed to the 100,000 employed by the sector as well as the £4.5 billion contributed in taxes and £7.7 billion generated for the economy.
The Chancellor, who serves as the MP for Catterick Racecourse, has been urged to consider the ‘serious financial challenge’ posed to the horse racing industry, and to ensure ‘regulation of the betting and gaming sector did not undermine the essential support racing receives from betting’.