The Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) has published a personal statement from Andy Bennett, a betting shop manager of regional bookmaker Scotsbet.
Bennett, a shop manager of Scotsbet Selkirk located in the constituency of Ettrick, Roxburgh and Berwickshire, has branded the Scottish government’s bookmaker reopening requirements as both ludicrous and out of touch.
Scotland’s 900 betting shops were allowed to reopen as of Monday 29 June. However, SNP ministers sanctioned last-minute demands which placed severe restrictions on venues.
“To people who do not use them, betting shops are shrouded in mystery, and misinformation. Betting is enjoyed by over two-thirds of the adult population in Scotland, and all but a tiny number do so in a responsible manner,” Bennett wrote in his letter.
“Times have moved on massively from the days when opening a betting shop door would result in large plumes of smoke billowing out, along with language that would turn the air blue.”
Requirements placed by the SNP demanded that bookmakers remove all venue seating, in addition to switching off all machines and being prohibited from broadcasting live sports.
The SNP stated that the urgent actions had been taken to ensure ‘no clustering of people gathering within betting shops’ – a ruling the BGC lambasted for directly placing 4,500 staff at risk of losing their jobs.
Detailing the consequences of the government’s actions, Bennett said: “My own shop has seen a greater than 60% drop in business, meaning we have had to keep willing workers furloughed.
“These are colleagues who want to get back to contributing to the economy, not receiving payments from the Government, but we literally have no choice. This has to change, but as yet, we haven’t had even the slightest indication of when that will be.”
In his statement, Bennett also underlined that Scottish bookmakers had fully pre-prepared their venues to ‘Scottish Stage 2’ social distancing and hygiene requirements as dictated by the Holyrood.
Bennett also stated that the government appears unaware of all the commitments and initiatives undertaken by betting shop managers and staff to improve one-to-one customer care and the reputation of betting shops within their local communities.
Labelling SNP measures as irresponsible and draconian, the BGC has demanded that the Scottish government lift its requirements immediately, letting betting shops return to a semblance of normal trade.
Closing his statement, Bennett said: “It is shambolic for the Scottish government to expect our industry to trade in such a way. They seem hellbent on the destruction of an industry that employs thousands and pays millions in tax, and I cannot understand why.
“I can’t comprehend why we have been treated so differently to our colleagues elsewhere in the UK, and why our customers are thought of so poorly. I plead with the Scottish government to respect Scottish bookmakers and their customers and ease these ludicrous restrictions before it is too late.”