BGC issues evidence appeal as Boris Johnson prepares restrictions update

The Betting and Gaming Council has again called for evidence to support impending hospitality closures, ahead of Prime Minister Boris Johnson addressing the nation this evening to outline new measures aimed at curbing the spread of coronavirus.

With it being widely reported that a three-tier system is to be introduced, which would place different areas of the country in categories dependent on infection rates, media reports of widespread hospitality closures in Liverpool have drawn the ire of many.

The BGC has once again slammed an “illogical” decision which could affect 400 betting shops, six casinos and more than 2,300 employees across Merseyside, stressing that ordering their closure “would be pointless”.

In a series of tweets sent this morning, the group said: “Ministers are about to shut down 400 betting shops and six casinos across Merseyside – which between them employ more than 2,300 people – on the pretext that it will slow the spread of #COVID19.  But there is NO evidence that they do so.

“At a time when the public finances are under pressure like never before, needlessly telling 2,300 betting shop and casino staff that they can’t go to work is not only illogical from a public health perspective, but also economically self-defeating.

“Casinos are not pseudo-nightclubs where people gather to drink. Indeed, they have offered to stop selling alcohol to further reduce the risk of spread. Their anti-covid measures are also best-in-class. Ordering their closure across Merseyside would be pointless.”

The Liverpool city region has been a central point of discussion over the weekend, with it anticipated that closures could affect casinos, bingo halls, pub and gyms but crucially not restaurants, with a joint statement issued this morning by the Metro Mayor, City Mayor and leaders of the Liverpool City Region’s five local authorities responding to the high and rising COVID-19 cases in the region.

“Together we agree and share the grave concerns with regard to the increasing pressure on our hospitals and remain absolutely committed to working with the Government to drive down the spread of the coronavirus and the number of Covid-19 cases,” it reads.

However, it is noted that an agreement has not yet been reached “on the wider economic support package that will be required as we go into tier 3 restrictions”.

Johnson – alongside Rishi Sunak and Chris Witty – will make his speech to the nation this evening, with Manchester also said to be facing similar restrictions to Liverpool. However, council leaders in the region are also said to have concerns over the financial aid offered.

In an open letter to the government sent over the weekend, leaders have urged the government to reconsider the local furlough scheme – which would see employees receive 67 per cent of their pay – after being informed that the financial package announced by the Chancellor on Friday afternoon “was final and was not open for negotiation”.

“We have great difficulties with that,” the leaders said. “Despite many requests, it has taken a long time for the government to recognise that a proper support package for people and businesses affected by local restrictions would be needed.

“When it finally appeared late yesterday, it was not sufficient to protect our communities through the challenging period which lies ahead.

“To accept it would be to treat hospitality workers as second-class citizens and we think that is wrong,” the letter added.