Business Secretary Alok Sharma has been urged by the Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) to block the ‘unfair and unnecessary’ closure of betting shops and casinos across the country, citing concerns about possible mass job losses.
Betting shops have been included in the list of companies needing to close in areas put under Tier 3 coronavirus restrictions across Lancashire and Liverpool, and likely to include Wales and possibly Greater Manchester, the only portion of non-essential high street retail needing to do so.
Michael Dugher, BGC CEO, in his letter to the Secretary of State, 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.”
Following a three-month lockout in England, betting shops were allowed to reopen on 15 June and have since imposed a range of strict anti-COVID measures such as the perspex panel, social distance measures and track and trace systems.
However, after the launch of the new three-tiered structure in England, Tier Two betting shops and casinos fear that within a matter of days they will have to stop trading.
The BGC has also written to local Tier 2 representatives asking them to resist the compulsory closing of betting shops and casinos because of the absence of proof that the virus is spreading.
Dugher referred to the research conducted by the Scientific Advisory Group on Emergencies (SAGE) of the government, which previously defined non-essential retail as having a relatively low effect on coronavirus spread.
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 £3 billion in tax every year.
“I share 100% of 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.”