BGC Hails Furlough Extension, Calls for End to Arbitrary Decisions

The Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) welcomed the decision from the Chancellor of the Exchequer to extend the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme through November, but called on the Government to allow casinos and betting shops to re-open from day 1 after the lockdown period is over.

Stop Arbitrary Decisions

Ahead of the second nationwide lockdown effective November 5, the gaming industry association pointed out there was no evidence that land-based gaming facilities had contributed in any way to the further spread of the virus. BGC called for an end to arbitrary decisions which put casinos and hospitality in the same boat.

Casinos in England implemented high-level anti-virus measures such as physical separation with perplex screens, strict social distancing rules and track and trace systems, yet they were ordered to close 10pm, along with pubs, bars and restaurants. In areas under Tier 3 restrictions, casinos were ordered to close entirely while drinking venues were allowed to continue operations as long as they serve substantial food.

Casinos and betting shops re-opened in the summer and immediately started contributing to the tax revenues in the case of the former and the levy and media right payments for the horse racing industry in the case of the latter. But now they face a second challenge, being ordered by Prime Minister Boris Johnson to close again effective Thursday, November 5 and remain shut until at least December 2.

Furlough Scheme Extension

Respectively, the Chancellor of the Exchequer extended the program aimed at keeping jobs affected by the virus-related restrictions, the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme. The furlough scheme was supposed to end by the end of last month, but in light of the upcoming tigher restrictions, Rishi Sunak extended the governmental support through November, a decision hailed by the BGC.

“Nothing matters more to our industry than the safety of our staff and customers, which is why we want to contribute to the national effort to defeat this virus. We also welcome the support for businesses forced to close under the second lockdown.”

Michael Dugher, CEO, BGC

The association’s CEO welcomed the furlough scheme extension but also noted that it would be vital for the industry to be allowed to resume operations from day 1, so casinos and betting shops start contributing again, instead of relying on subsidies.

“It’s also important that when the latest lockdown is over, betting shops are allowed to open safely along with other non-essential retail, as they were in June. Casinos, which have the best anti-Covid measures operating anywhere in hospitality and entertainment, should also reopen at the same time.”

Michael Dugher, CEO, BGC

The call from the gaming industry body is adding to the growing parliamentary pressure for greater transparency regarding the process of decision-making by the Government. Leading MPs tabled questions, asking for the release of the public health advice ministers follow, as well as any data that justifies the decision process.

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