The UK Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) has called for a level playing field as the Government considers the roadmap out of lockdown. BGC urged that betting shops and casinos must be allowed to reopen at the same time as other similar businesses once the country is given the green light to safely emerge from lockdown.
BGC members and their employees have been supporting the national effort against Covid-19 and are continuing to do so, with members offering their venues as test and vaccination centres and employees volunteering to support the vaccine rollout.
The BGC has said that its members – which employ 44,000 people in betting shops and casinos – are ready to support the economic recovery and must be given the same opportunities to reopen as other parts of the economy. For betting shops, that means reopening in line with other non-essential retailers; and for casinos, hospitality venues such as pubs and restaurants.
Michael Dugher, chief executive of BGC, said: “The pace at which the vaccine is being rolled out across the UK has been hugely impressive. Britain is at the forefront of this global effort thanks to the hard work of NHS teams and volunteers up and down the country. UK Government Ministers also deserve credit for the success of this roll out and for the support it has given to businesses throughout the pandemic. The past year has been a torrid time for businesses and government support has been a lifeline for many.
“As the vaccine roll out continues and the country begins to emerge from lockdown, it is important that businesses are able to plan effectively for reopening. Ministers must be clear from the outset what the next few months will look like and there should be a consistent approach across the sectors.
“Betting shops must be allowed to reopen alongside other non-essential retail. Last summer, when most betting shops were able to open, they showed that they have best-in-class anti-covid measures compared to any other part of the high street to protect customers and staff. It is vital that ministers allow them to play their part in stimulating the high street, along with other non-essential retailers.
“Likewise, casinos are eager to help Britain get back on its feet. The night-time economy has taken a hammering during the pandemic and draconian restrictions, including the 10pm curfew, have made a difficult situation more desperate for many businesses. Ministers must allow casinos to reopen at the same time as other hospitality businesses including pubs and they must scrap the curfew. It didn’t work last summer and it won’t work now.
“There will be no let-up in our commitment to safety, but we need the economy to open up again – not least if we are to revive the country’s tax take and fund vital public services like the NHS. But the thousands of people employed in betting shops and casinos deserve nothing less than a level playing field, so that everyone gets the same opportunities to recover.”