The Betting and Gaming Council (BGC), the UK’s gambling industry standards body, has said that retail betting shops and land-based casinos should be allowed to reopen their doors to the public once the UK begins to exit the current national lockdown.
The BGC’s call to action comes as Prime Minister Boris Johnson is expected to reveal a roadmap out of lockdown on 22 February. The devolved administrations are also expected to put forward proposals for easing lockdown restrictions in the coming weeks.
A “level playing field”
The BGC has called for the government to allow for betting shops and casinos to reopen at the same time as other businesses when restrictions are eased to help create a “level playing field.”
Gambling facilities in the UK have been closed since the government implemented the most recent coronavirus lockdown on 5 January. Some of these venues have been closed for much longer due to the regional restrictions imposed under the tiered system that came before the most recent lockdown.
The BGC’s chief executive Michael Dugher has urged the government to allow the land-based sector to reopen alongside other similar businesses when lockdown ends.
Dugher said: “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. 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. It is vital that ministers allow them to play their part in stimulating the high street, along with other non-essential retailers.
“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. Ministers must allow casinos to reopen at the same time as other hospitality businesses including pubs and they must scrap the curfew. It didn’t work last summer and it won’t work now.”
Further closures could have a negative impact
Dugher explained that any further delay to reopening the land-based gambling sector could lead to additional job losses.
The UK gambling industry currently employs more than 44,000 people and contributed £3.2bn in tax revenue during the 2019-2020 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. 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.”
Although the land-based sector is currently shuttered, the betting industry is still being supported by the horse racing and greyhound racing sectors.
Earlier this week it was also announced that all English Premier League events will remain televised until spectators can physically return to stadiums.