In anticipation of Prime Minister Boris Johnson addressing the nation this evening to detail new steps aimed at curbing the spread of coronavirus, the Betting and Gaming Council once again called for evidence to support imminent hospitality closures.
With a three-tier structure to be enforced that would put various parts of the country in categories depending on infection rates being widely published, media reports of widespread hospitality closures in Liverpool have drawn the ire of many.
The BGC has again slammed a “illogical” decision that could affect 400 betting shops, six casinos and more than 2,300 workers across Merseyside, stressing that “it would be pointless” to order their closure.
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.”
Someone should ask @OliverDowden what evidence there is that betting shops, as part of high street retail, are higher risk for Covid. Fact is there is no evidence. But there is certainly a risk to @DCMS sector jobs, to the Govt’s tax take + to the funding of racing. https://t.co/9Lcu3tWDem
— Michael Dugher (@MichaelDugher) October 12, 2020
Over the weekend, the Liverpool city area was a focal point of debate, predicting that closures could impact casinos, bingo halls, pubs and gyms, but ultimately not restaurants, with a joint statement released this morning by the Metro Mayor, City Mayor and representatives of the five local authorities of the Liverpool City Region reacting to the region’s high and increasing COVID-19 cases.
It reads: “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 is noted, however, that an agreement “on the wider economic support package that will be required as we go into tier 3 restrictions” has not yet been reached.
Johnson will make his speech to the nation this evening alongside Rishi Sunak and Chris Witty, with Manchester also said to be facing similar restrictions to Liverpool. However, it is also said that council leaders in the region have concerns about the financial aid offered.
In an open letter sent over the weekend to the government, leaders urged the government to reconsider the local furlough system, which would see employees receive 67 percent of their pay, after being advised that the financial package announced on Friday afternoon by the Chancellor “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.