Lancashire is the latest region to be moved into Tier 3 of England’s new lockdown system, which will see approximately 100 betting shops across the county forced to close their doors from Saturday.
Downing Street made the decision to move the entire region including the cities of Lancaster and Preston – into the ‘very high’ alert tier, which has been met with widespread criticism from local leaders.
Under the tier 3 guidance, the government has placed pubs, bars, gyms and other hospitality venues under a forced lockdown. Yet, restaurants and pubs serving food will be allowed to open, so long as customers remain seated and different households cannot meet up and mix.
The new restrictions cover Burnley, Blackburn with Darwen, Blackpool, Chorley, Fylde, Hyndburn, Lancaster, Pendle, Preston, Ribble Valley, Rossendale, South Ribble, West Lancashire, Wyre.
While the government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) has described non-essential retail as having a relatively low impact on the spread of coronavirus, the closure of betting shops as a result of the new regulations is expected to cause a significant impact on both the gambling industry, with the racing industry also feeling the effects.
Earlier this week, the Liverpool City region became the first area of the country to be slapped with the new restrictions, which resulted in the closure of 350 betting shops and six casinos.
With the new measures in Lancashire expected to be reviewed every four weeks, the county has reportedly secured £42m out of the £58.2m it was seeking as a package of financial support for businesses – an increase, albeit ‘disappointing’ according to local leader – on the £12m offer originally tabled by the government.
Responding to the new restrictions in Lancashire, Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) CEO Michael Dugher questioned the logic behind closing betting shops across the region on Twitter.
He said: “We know Public Health England had concerns about gyms in August but not about casinos or betting shops. This decision shows evidence & science play no part.
“If you are one of the thousands who work in casinos or bookies, it looks like the people who make these decisions don’t care about your job.”
We know PHE had concerns about gyms in August but not about casinos or betting shops. This decision shows evidence & science play no part. If you are one of the thousands who work in casinos or bookies, it looks like the people who make these decisions don’t care about your job. https://t.co/gTuLfsGvAI
— Michael Dugher (@MichaelDugher) October 16, 2020
Discussions between Greater Manchester and the government are still ongoing after councillors and MPs from across the county urged the government to provide additional financial support for those businesses forced to close and the workers on furlough.
The BGC and industry leadership has backed calls by the leisure and hospitality industry that the UK government must adopt a package of financial measures to help businesses through the Autumn and Winter seasons.
Downing Street has remained firm on its decision to offer a 67% furlough pay for those unable to work due to the new restrictions, which MPs and councillors across the north have emphasised will decimate the hospitality and leisure industries.
If such measures do come into force in Greater Manchester, it is expected to affect approximately 400 betting shops – which contribute £54 million to the Exchequer in tax and £12.5m to racing in the form of levy and media rights payments – marking a significant blow to the industry looking to recover from the effects of the first lockdown.