Michael Dugher, Chief Executive of the Betting and Gaming Council (BGC), has described the reopening of the retail betting sector as ‘great news’ for both the industry and the UK economy.
Under the UK government’s four-stage plan for the easing of national lockdown restrictions in England and Wales, around 6,000 retail bookmakers will unlock their doors and resume trading for the first time since December, as part of a general reopening of non-essential retail.
However, restrictions will remain in place, notably limiting the number of customers who can visit an outlet, as well as placing a 15-minute limit on the amount of time a customer can spend in a shop.
“It’s great news that high street betting shops in England and Wales are finally able to re-open safely, along with the rest of non-essential retail,” Dugher stated.
“It’s been a long three months for betting shop staff, as well as their customers, and I know they are all looking forward to safely getting back to business thanks to the best-in-class anti-COVID measures in place.”
Additional safeguarding and hygiene measures include hand sanitisation centres, Perspex screens to prevent a barrier between staff and customers, strict social distancing measures and enforced mask wearing.
However, although high street betting shops have been able to get back in business as the country moves closer and closer towards a more general reopening and lifting of restrictions in June, casinos will not be able to reopen until 17 May.
Dugher continued: “As the recent EY report showed, the UK’s betting shops support 46,000 jobs and paid nearly £1 billion in tax to the Treasury in 2020, while our members contribute £350 million to horseracing through sponsorship, media rights and the betting levy.
“This means that as well as providing a much-needed boost for the millions of people who enjoy a flutter, they will also be able to play a key role in the UK’s post-COVID economic recovery.”
The Ernst & Young report referenced by Dugher highlighted several notable contributions made by the betting and gaming industry to the British economy.
It was outlined in the study that the industry contributed around £7.7 billion in gross added value in 2019, in addition to providing employment for 61,000 people, whilst a further 58,000 jobs were generated by the industry’s supply chain.
Further figures show that BGC members paid over £3.2 billion in tax in 2019, accounting for 0.4% of Treasury revenues, with the total number rising to £4.5 billion when the supply chain is included.
Finally, the industry also provided significant financial support to various professional sports at all levels of athleticism, including £40 million in funding to the English Football League (EFL), as well as over £10 million to darts and snooker and more than £2.5 million for rugby league.
By far the biggest beneficiary was horse racing, which received around £350 million in the form of the betting levy, sponsorship agreements and broadcasting rights payments.
In addition to the BGC, Entain plc – operator of high street household names Ladbrokes and Coral – also made well publicised statements regarding the impact of COVID-19 on the betting industry, calling on landlords to reduce rent for retail outlets.
Britain’s high streets will, however, be able to take advantage of direct cash payments of £6,000 per site in ‘recovery grants’, a scheme which has been met with enthusiasm from the BGC.