Finance

BGC proposes five-point Covid-19 recovery plan to Chancellor

| By Robert Fletcher
The Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) has written to Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak to set out a five-point plan it said would help the gambling industry recover from the novel coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic.
UK-Parliament

The proposals come ahead of 3 March’s Budget, when the Chancellor will make a series of major announcements for the upcoming financial year.

Included in the five-point plan is a proposal to extend business rates relief for a further year, with the BGC saying this would help supports betting shops and casinos that have been forced to close for much of the pandemic.

Introduced in March last year, the business rates relief meant retail, leisure and hospitality businesses were exempt from paying business rates for 12 months. This initially did not apply to gambling business, but was eventually extended to the industry following pressure from the BGC.

“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,” BGC chief executive Michael Dugher said.

The BGC plan also included a call for the devolved administrations in Wales and Scotland to provide similar help to gambling businesses as part of their own Covid-19 support plans.

Meanwhile, the BGC urged the Chancellor to ensure to government keeps to its timetable for easing restrictions and allow betting shops to reopen alongside other non-essential retail from 12 April.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson confirmed this in an announcement earlier in the week as part of England’s exit from lockdown, saying betting shops could start to reopen from 12 April if certain government Covid-19 targets were met.

In relation to this, the BGC urged the government to ensure the existing 10pm curfew on casinos and other hospitality venues not come back into effect when these facilities are allowed to reopen on 17 May.

The BGC also called on the Chancellor not to introduce any increase in taxation or duties for gambling operators, again noting how the industry had suffered significant losses in 2020 as a result of Covid-19 lockdowns and restrictions.

Finally, the BGC said the Chancellor must ensure any future regulation of the betting and gambling sector does not undermine the essential support horse racing receives from betting, adding any changes could harm the racing sector.

“By any measure, the betting and gaming industry is an important contributor to Britain’s economy,” Dugher said. “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.”

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