BHA calls for evidence-based approach to betting shop closures

The British Horseracing Authority (BHA) has called upon the government to make a ‘fully evidence-based decision’ on potential betting shop closures and to consider the financial ramification that such measures can have on the betting and racing industry.

Speaking ahead of announcements due to be made by Prime Minister Boris Johnson this evening, the BHA has issued a statement which highlighted the ‘unique, interdependent’ relationship between gambling and racing – a partnership which is critical for funding racing.

The statement read: “We are very concerned by media reports that betting shops – which have been safely operating under strict COVID-secure protocols since their reopening in June – are being considered for closure in areas which go in the highest tier of the Government’s three tier lockdown system.

“Betting operators have demonstrated that they can safely operate shops without breaching social distancing restrictions so we do not understand the basis for their closure when other retail outlets are unaffected.”

In recent days, the UK media has reported that local leaders from across the North of England have been locked in negotiations with the government over the potential new measures to curb the rise in coronavirus cases.

The new restrictions could include a temporary closure of pubs, gyms, casinos, betting shops and other hospitality and leisure facilities.

While the government is yet to make an official statement, it has been reported that Prime Minister Boris Johnson signed off an agreement for a ‘simplified’, three tier system of local lockdowns for regions in England this week which will include ‘medium risk’, ‘high risk’ and ‘very high risk’.

In the last hour, it has been confirmed that Greater Manchester and Oldham will fall under tier two of the new system.

Addressing what this means, Jim McMahon, Labour & Co-operative MP for Oldham West & Royton, tweeted: “Call with the Secretary of State confirms GM will be placed in Tier 2 with household restrictions on meeting indoors in any setting, but not outdoors. Pubs serving food remain open. Oldham will be removed from its enhanced lockdown measures and brought into line with GM *at last*.”

Liverpool and the Merseyside area are expected to fall into tier three regulations, which could limit the area’s hospitality sectors.

The BHA statement added: “Racing and betting share a unique, interdependent relationship. Any measures taken which result in the potential closure of thousands of betting shops, which generate critical revenues for British racing through the Levy and media rights payments, will have a hugely damaging impact on both industries’ finances.

“This is all the more acute for British racing awing to the continued absence of spectators on British racecourses and further demonstrates the need for immediate financial support for our industry.

“We strongly encourage the government to make a fully evidence-based decision on any betting shop closures, cognisant of the significant wider impacts on British racing and other associated industries.”

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