Retail sports betting

BGC urges level playing field for gambling venues after Covid-19 lockdown

| By Robert Fletcher
British gambling industry body the Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) has urged the government to allow betting shops and casinos to reopen at the same time as other similar businesses when novel coronavirus (Covid-19) lockdown measures are eased.

Gambling venues across Great Britain have not been able to open since lockdown began on 5 January, though many facilities had been closed much longer due to regional restrictions imposed under the tiered system that preceded lockdown.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson is due to outline England’s exit from lockdown on 22 February, including setting out how and when non-essential retail and other businesses will be permitted to reopen.

BGC chief executive Michael Dugher (pictured) has called on the government to ensure a “level playing field” when lockdown ends, saying gambling venues should be allowed to open alongside other, similar businesses.  

“As the vaccine roll out continues and the country begins to emerge from lockdown, it is important that businesses are able to plan effectively for reopening,” Dugher said.

“Ministers must be clear from the outset what the next few months will look like and there should be a consistent approach across the sectors.

“Betting shops must be allowed to reopen alongside other non-essential retail. Last summer, when most betting shops were able to open, they showed that they have best-in-class anti-Covid measures compared to any other part of the high street to protect customers and staff.

“Likewise, casinos are eager to help Britain get back on its feet. The night-time economy has taken a hammering during the pandemic and draconian restrictions, including the 10pm curfew, have made a difficult situation more desperate for many businesses.”

Dugher added that any further delay to reopening gambling venues could lead to further job losses in an industry that employs more than 44,000 people and contributed £3.2bn (€3.70bn/$4.49bn) in taxes during the 2019-20 financial year.

“There will be no let-up in our commitment to safety, but we need the economy to open up again – not least if we are to revive the country’s tax take and fund vital public services like the NHS,” Dugher said.

“But the thousands of people employed in betting shops and casinos deserve nothing less than a level playing field, so that everyone gets the same opportunities to recover.”

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