The Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) is seeking guarantees from the government that UK betting shops and gambling venues will be allowed to reopen without interruption once the latest England-wide COVID-19 lockdown ends on the anticipated date of 2 December.
The BGC said that the government must take a ‘science-led approach’ to reopen high street venues, avoiding the decisions which saw bookmakers, gambling halls and casinos denied their 1 June reopening alongside other businesses classified as ‘non-essential’.
In a statement to MPs, the BGC underlined that a tax-efficient sector could not afford a repeat of the “arbitrary and unnecessary decisions” which led to bookmakers being lumped as hospitality venues confined to being closed under tier-3 restrictions.
Meanwhile, UK gambling’s hardest hit sector casinos had to wait until 15 August to reopen, having been placed under lockdown for a near six-month period which saw it miss out on the majority of the summer.
The BGC added that UK casinos and bookmakers supported PM Boris Johnson’s call for a further lockdown, but that UK gambling venues have time-and-again proven the safety and hygiene of their venues.
Meanwhile, BGC CEO Michael Dugher welcomed the extension to the furlough scheme announced by Chancellor Rishi Sunak – however, he underlined that ‘gambling venues would prefer to be contributing to the economy rather than relying on Government subsidies’.
Signing-off on the BGC’s statement, Dugher said: “Nothing matters more to our industry than the safety of our staff and customers, which is why we want to contribute to the national effort to defeat this virus.
“It’s also important that when the latest lockdown is over, betting shops are allowed to open safely along with other non-essential retail, as they were in June. Casinos, which have the best anti-Covid measures operating anywhere in hospitality and entertainment, should also reopen at the same time.
“At a time when there is widespread despair among sporting bodies, the Government also needs to recognise that a healthy betting industry is vital to the funding of sport, and that betting shops, in particular, are critical to the financing of horseracing.”