The gaming industry association body in the UK, the Betting and Gaming Council (BGC), issued a plea to the Government to reconsider its recent decision to order gaming establishments in Lancashire to close indefinitely, arguing the impact on the coronavirus cases curve would be minimal but the economic consequences for the region would be dire.
Lancashire Put to Tier 3 Restrictions
The recent action from the BGC comes after the Government decided to raise restrictions in Lancashire to Tier 3, the most severe lockdown measures. As a result, around 200 betting shops and 3 casinos are facing closure for an indefinite time, jeopardizing the jobs of 1,100 people.
The betting shops in the region contribute to the amount of £24 million in tax annually, and support the horse racing industry through levy and media rights payments amounting to £6.6 million, while the casinos facing closure are paying £6 million a year in tax to the Treasury.
Raising the restrictions in Lancashire to Tier 3 came right after a similar act in Merseyside, where the Government requested the closure of 350 high-street betting shops and 6 casinos with a total employment of 2,300 people. Unlike for the Liverpool City region, Lancashire will keep its gyms and leisure centers open, shutting down only gambling establishments.
No Proof Casinos Contribute to Virus Spread
In response to the announcement from the Government, Michael Dugher, CEO of the BGC, pointed out there was no proof casinos and betting shops contributed to the spread of the virus disease. Besides, all gaming establishments have been strictly following the public health and safety guidelines introduced by the authorities since the virus outbreak.
Mr Dugher further noted that, while the industry understands the Government’s need to flatten the curve, it needs to do so by balancing a protection act for the jobs. In addition, neither the Treasury, nor the horse racing industry can afford to miss out on the support provided by the gambling establishments, with horse racing already suffering from a massive financial hit due to the ban on live audience.
“From the beginning of the pandemic, betting shops and casinos have played their full role in the national effort to tackle this virus. It is therefore hugely disappointing that as they are starting to get back on their feet again, those venues in Merseyside and Lancashire have had the rug pulled from under them.”Michael Dugher, CEO, BGC
Reconsider Closures or Ensure Business Sustainability
The BGC’s CEO stated that the inconsistency of approach in Merseyside and Lancashire regarding gyms and leisure centers created the impression that decision makers did not care much about jobs in the gambling sector. There is no evidence that closing of casinos and betting shops will slow down the virus spread, Michael Dugher outlined, stating that the closure impact would be negligible.
Mr Dugher asked the Government to come up with an adequate financial package to ensure sustainability of the business for the affected casinos and betting shops, or better, reconsider its decision and let the gambling establishments continue to operate and do their part in helping the UK economic recovery.