Wales closes betting shops as country enters ‘firebreak’ lockdown

UK gambling faces another shock as First Minister of Wales Mark Drakeford confirms that the country will enter a ‘time-limited firebreak’ from 6pm on Friday.

The measures, which will last for 17 days, will take Wales back to the lockdown restrictions introduced in March and will result in the closure of 366 betting shops.

Non-essential retail, leisure and hospitality businesses – such as pubs, restaurants, casinos and betting shops – will be forced to close their doors, while people will also be encouraged to ‘work from home wherever possible’, with the exception of essential workers.

Household mixing will also be banned both indoors and outdoors, with provisions made for those in social bubbles. In addition, primary schools open after the half-term week and secondary schools will open only to Year 7 and Year 8 pupils.

Responding to the new measures in Wales, the Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) reiterated its stance that the government must provide a ‘necessary package of financial support’ for those businesses affected by the restrictions.

The BGC tweeted: “Following @MarkDrakeford’s announcement of a 17-day #COVID19 lockdown in Wales, the BGC is urging the Government to come up with the necessary package of financial support for businesses affected, including 366 betting shops and three casinos employing 2,000 people between them.”

Announcing the new measures, Drakeford revealed that there will be a £300 million economic resilience fund to support businesses during the lockdown period.

Through the fund, every business covered by the small business rate relief will receive a £1,000 payment. Small and medium-sized retail, leisure and hospitality businesses will receive a one-off payment of up to £5,000.

Last week, betting shops and casinos across Lancashire and Merseyside were forced to close their doors after the regions entered into Tier 3 of England’s new lockdown system.

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.

The measures have affected approximately 100 betting shops in the Lancashire region and a further 350 betting shops and six casinos in Merseyside.

Discussions between Greater Manchester and the government appear to have reached a stalemate 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.

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