The Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) has demanded that the Scottish Government lift ‘draconian restrictions’ that are wrecking the viability of Scottish bookmakers making a business comeback from lockdown.
Closed since mid-March, Scotland’s 900 betting shops were allowed to reopen on Monday 29 June.
However, Scottish National Party (SNP) ministers applied last-minute requirements demanding betting shops remove chairs and switch off machines, in addition to prohibiting venues from broadcasting live racing.
Sanctioning the restrictions, Scottish finance secretary Kate Forbes said the decision had been made “to avoid clusters of people gathering to watch live sport”.
The BGC stated that the SNP needs to urgently rethink its reopening conditions for betting shops, in which it has placed 4,500 people at risk of losing their jobs.
Calling for direct action by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, BGC CEO Michael Dugher said: “Our members warned in advance that the draconian restrictions being proposed by the Scottish Government were unnecessary and would have a devastating impact on their businesses – sadly they have been proved right.”
“Nicola Sturgeon was right to say she wanted every business ‘trading viably’ but the Scottish Government is single-handedly wrecking the viability of hundreds of betting shops in Scotland. Scottish betting shops are bracing themselves for closures and there are thousands of jobs at stake unless Nicola Sturgeon re-thinks.”
Betting leadership has lambasted the Scottish government’s actions as ‘ridiculous’, and far stricter than those imposed in other parts of UK.
Monitoring Scottish betting shops, the BGC underlined that incumbents ‘have seen their turnover fall by up to 95% compared to before lockdown’.
Dugher added: “Making bookies open without any chairs or live racing shows a complete misunderstanding of how they operate. Customers don’t sit in for hours – they like to pop in for a bet and then sit down and watch how their horse or greyhound got on.
“I’ve seen how betting shops elsewhere in the UK have been able to re-open perfectly safely with social distancing and anti-Covid measures like screens and hand sanitisers, and the exact same measures are in place in Scotland… We would urge Nicola Sturgeon to intervene before it’s too late.”