The Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) called on Rishi Sunak to demonstrate ongoing flexibility after the chancellor offered the latest update on the COVID furlough scheme of the government.
The BGC, which represents the controlled betting and gaming sector in the UK, including businesses that own casinos and bingo halls, welcomed the chancellor ‘s determination to retain funding for pandemic-affected firms as the lockdown eases.
Sunak reported last month that the new furlough programme, which sees the government pay 80 percent of wages up to £ 2,500 a month, will continue until the end of July.
Alterations announced in May reported that employers would have to pay social insurance and pension payments for their employees in August, with ten percent of employee salaries to be compensated a month later. In October, this will increase to 20 percent as the Treasury contribution declines to 60 percent.
Welcoming continued support for health crisis-affected companies, the BGC argues that, in particular, it will allow bingo halls and casinos to get back up and running while maintaining control over staffing, their greatest expense.
BGC chief executive Michael Dugher urged ministers to continue showing as much flexibility as possible in their response to the crisis, arguing that the hospitality and leisure sectors will require more assistance down the line: “Any help for businesses from the government at this time of global crisis is of course welcome, and we thank the chancellor for providing more clarity on how the furlough scheme will operate until the end of October.
“Even though the lockdown is easing, many of our member companies – and in particular in casinos and bingo halls – will be forced to operate at a reduced capacity for the foreseeable future because of the need to maintain strict social distancing.”
Sunak had previously announced that the retention scheme for coronavirus workers would continue until October, a step intended to better sustain the 64,000 employees employed in the retail betting and gaming industries.
As part of the national effort to slow the spread of the virus all betting shops, bingo halls and casinos have been closed since March 20. Betting stores, along with other ‘non-essential retail’ are expected to begin reopening under government plans in June.
Dugher added: “Given the significant contribution the hospitality and leisure sector makes to the UK economy, we would urge Mr Sunak keep being flexible and acknowledge that it will continue to need support from the government as the country emerges from the pandemic.
“We have had super engagement with the government up until now, and we look forward to that continuing so we can ensure the betting and gaming industry can play its full part in getting the UK back on its feet.”