Lawmakers Urge British Bookies to Return Relief Money

With over £2 billion of relief money returned by businesses that benefited from the pandemic, MPs have called on sports betting businesses in the United Kingdom to do the same.

Lawmakers Say Bookies Should Return Relief Funds

Lawmakers in the United Kingdom have called sportsbooks to return tens of millions of pounds they received in relief funds following the introduction of lockdown measures. The calls come amid a broader-move by certain sectors to return the relief funds they received from the government, with the total number of returned funds now reaching over £2 billion by parties that ended up benefiting from the pandemic.

Numerous media outlets have picked up the news citing examples of businesses which have been successful enough to weather the lockdown on their own and not seek financial stimulus from the government. This comes at a time when the government is beginning a new review of the Gambling Act 2005 in a bid to actualize the regulatory framework for the digital age.

Companies such as GVC, which recently rebranded as Entain, have 3,300 shops in the United Kingdom, and they stand to benefit from £20 million in relief this year. Smaller companies, such as Flutter, which owns around 350 betting shops in the country, will receive another £4.8 million.

Blue Collar Conservative Group leader Esther McVey has urged the gambling sector to act respectfully and send back the government payments, as many other people would do because they simply don’t need it.

She was joined by Labour MP Carolyn Harris, who has been one of the most vociferous critics of gambling operations in the country and a chair of the all-party parliamentary group for gambling harm, and who argued that the gambling industry should show a gesture of good will and send the money back so it can be redirected to bars, restaurants and other venues that are at brink of collapse.

Does the Argument Make Sense?

Popular belief shared in the media is that sportsbooks have benefited vastly from the lockdown, shifting to online operations, which is now part of the ongoing review, and should therefore return government relief funds.

According to one article published in This Is Money, GVC has bumped its earnings forecast to £780 million citing a strong online activity as the reason why. However, the article misses to mention that GVC is a global operator with a foot in numerous markets beyond the United Kingdom.

The article mentioned Flutter’s own success in terms of revenue, with results pushing up by a third between July and September.

Sportsbooks have been under a lot of pressure in the United Kingdom. The new review now up for debate in the country will expectedly target numerous of sensitive and important issues, such as loss limits, maximum online betting limits, and bonusing.

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