Bacta Files Complaint Over ‘discriminatory’ AGC reopening

Since Prime Minister Boris Johnson unveiled the government’s path out of lockout last week, Bacta has filed a legal complaint against the reopening of adult gaming centres in England.

This resulted in the reopening of betting shops around the country on April 12, with AGCs, bingo halls, and casinos following suit on May 17.

DWF Law to contest reasoning

As a result, Bacta has hired DWF Law, a multinational law company, to contest the reasoning behind the AGCs’ postponed reopening after all other non-essential retail companies.

The organisation “cannot ignore the decision’s discriminatory impact and the long-term hit to the AGC industry that would flow from it,” according to the letter to Oliver Dowden, Secretary of State for Arts, Media and Sport.

It acknowledges that the pandemic’s activities are “of course unprecedented,” but continues that “the government is still required to exercise its decision-making rationally, in a non-discriminatory way and in accordance with legitimate expectations.”

Allowing earlier opening of LBO’s

The alleged prejudice is said to be “highlighted by the decision to allow LBOs to open earlier,” which it claims it “has never been told any good reason” for, implying that the decision to postpone the opening of AGCs is unfair.

The letter continues with the following observations: “It therefore remains plain that the disparity is not based on any good evidence justifying it. Even when the point was specifically raised as a parliamentary question, tabled on February 19, 2021, Nigel Huddleston MP only noted that the ‘roadmap has been informed by the latest scientific evidence and seeks a balance between our key social and economic priorities, while preserving the health and safety of the country’. 

“That response does not, however, provide any real clarity on the point, nor does it explain the disparity of treatment, in particular, between AGCs and LBOs.”

Focussing attention on the unfair

Bacta’s CEO, John White, added: “We are doing everything we can to focus attention on the unfair, and we believe illegal, treatment of AGCs in the reopening roadmap. The decision to prevent this one venue on the High Street from opening with all other retailers is not only discriminatory, evidence for it is absent and it lacks any logic. 

“We have decided to take legal action and were heartened by the government’s U-turn following the Sacha Lord case, where the Greater Manchester night-time economy advisor brought a court case against Matt Hancock on behalf of the hospitality industry and won. 

“This case also mentioned the discriminatory impacts of closure decisions as contributing to the government’s decision being unlawful, as did the complete lack of evidence to justify it – in this case the requirement to have a substantial meal with a drink when the tier system was brought in, which Lord successfully argued discriminated against certain ‘sections of society’ as thousands of pubs were forced to close.”