After several days of negotiations between local leaders and Downing Street, Greater Manchester has become the latest city to enter a tier 3 lockdown, forcing betting shops and casinos across the region to close their doors.
The lockdown measures, which come into force at 00:01am on Friday, will be imposed by the government after discussions over financial support for local businesses and changes to the furlough scheme broke down.
As a result, it is expected that more than 400 betting shops – which contribute £54 million to the Exchequer in tax and £12.5 million to racing in the form of levy and media rights payments – and 12 casinos will close their doors on Thursday evening.
Under the tier 3 guidance, the government also 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.
Andy Burnham, the mayor of Greater Manchester, has been locked in intense discussions with government ministers for the last nine days. The Labour mayor has vehemently opposed the government’s decision to offer a 67% furlough scheme, a significant drop on the 80% offered during the first lockdown, which both himself and representatives of the hospitality and leisure industries fear will hit those on lower wages the hardest.
Speaking outside Manchester’s Bridgewater Hall, Burnham said: “Is this a game of poker with people’s lives? Are the government trying to put pressure on people to take as little as they can possibly get away with?
“Let’s be clear who is most affected by a Tier 3 lockdown – it is people working in pubs, in bookies, driving taxis. People too often forgotten by those in power.”
Andy Burnham emphasised that tighter measures ‘would be certain to increase levels of poverty, homelessness and hardship’, adding that government ministers had ‘walked away’ from negotiations over aid earlier that day after the mayor tabled a request for £65 million to be used as a business bailout package for the city to enter a Tier 3 lockdown.
The government reportedly stated that their offer of £60 million for the region was non-negotiable, thus leaving the decisions to break down.
The calls for financial support have been backed by the Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) and industry leadership, who have repeatedly urged the UK government to adopt a package of financial measures to help businesses through the Autumn and Winter seasons.