BGC calls for intervention to halt ‘ill-informed’ and ‘arbitrary’ closures

The Betting and Gaming Council has called on the Department of Business to intervene, after labelling the decision to close betting shops as casinos as “ill-informed, arbitrary” and stating that “it frankly looks anti-gambling industry”.

Betting shops and casinos have been forced to close in Merseyside and Lancashire following the implementation of Tier 3 restrictions, with it warned that those in Tier 2 fear being ordered to cease trading within days.

Last week Merseyside closed hundreds of betting shops and six casinos, employing 2,300 people, with the decision in Lancashire affecting 1,100 staff across 200 betting shops and three casinos.

Should similar action follow suit in Greater Manchester, the BGC warns that 400 betting shops and 12 casinos, employing 3,000 people, would also have to shut their doors.

Subsequently, Michael Dugher, chief executive of the BGC, has written to Business Secretary Alok Sharma urging his department to intervene to block the “unfair and unnecessary” move putting tens of thousands of jobs in the industry at risk.

The BGC has also written to local leaders in Tier 2 areas urging them to oppose the forced closure of betting shops and casinos due to the lack of evidence that they spread the virus.

In his letter to the Secretary of State, Dugher said: “There are currently just over 6,700 shops employing nearly 40,000 staff across the country, the majority of which are female.

“The singling out of betting shops for closure is unfair, unnecessary and runs counter to the sensible approach the government had previously adopted. This decision looks ill-informed, arbitrary, and along with plans to close COVID-secure casinos (that had offered to give up selling alcohol) it frankly looks anti-gambling industry.

“It will have a hugely negative impact on our businesses and staff, despite their efforts to ensure a very safe environment for customers that is well beyond any other non-essential retail business.”

Furthermore, Dugher also says that SAGE, the committee of scientific experts advising the government on its COVID response, has pointed out that high street shops have a “very minimal impact” on the spread of the virus.

He added: “I therefore would like to ask for your support to intervene on behalf of betting shops, an important part of high street retail and an industry that contributes over £3bn in tax every year. 

“I share one hundred per cent the government’s determination to tackle the spread of COVID. The decision to close betting shops won’t help with that, but it does put in jeopardy an industry that will be much-needed to help power the economy and the Exchequer to recovery.”