BGC urges Welsh government to protect industry jobs
The Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) has called on the Welsh government to extend the Business Rates Retail Discount to include betting shops, bingo halls and casinos in order to help protect industry jobs in the country.
The UK government in March expanded the new scheme to cover such venues, meaning they will receive 100% business rates relief in recognition that they had to close as part of measures to slow the spread of novel coronavirus (Covid-19).
However, current Welsh government policy stipulates that the discount does not apply to betting shops, which the BGC said will put jobs at risk across the sector.
According to the BGC, Wales hosts over 300 betting shops and four casinos, and if the national government does not amend its policy, all of the venues may be at risk of permanent closure and over 2,000 people could lose their jobs.
BGC chief executive Michael Dugher wrote to Welsh finance minister Rebecca Evans to outline his concerns about the current policy.
“Without assistance with business rates relief, similar to that offered to other sectors in Wales, including other parts of the hospitality, leisure and entertainment industries, there is a real danger that betting shops and casinos will permanently close leading to the direct loss of over 2000 jobs in Wales,” he said.
“Betting shops, bingo halls and casinos in England were thrown a lifeline when the UK government announced it was extending its business rates relief scheme to cover their premises as well, recognising the contribution they make to the economy, to sport and the vital part they are playing in the national effort and in communities to cope with the virus.”
The change in UK government policy regarding the scheme came after the BGC hit out at the initial proposals, at the time describing the decision to exclude casinos and gambling clubs “bizarre”.
“I don’t for a single second think that the Welsh government is saying that 2,000 workers in Wales who are employed in the regulated betting industry are less worthy of the support they get in England, but we urgently need a re-think on rates,” Dugher said.
“These 2,000 jobs are hardworking men and women with bills to pay and families to care for. Their jobs are worth every bit as much as someone doing the same job in England.”