BGC calls for retail betting role in high street recovery

BGC chair Brigid Simmonds OBE.
BGC chair Brigid Simmonds OBE.

The chair of the UK trade association is calling on the government to give the industry a central role in its inquiry into the post-pandemic high street.

UK.- Brigid Simmonds OBE, chair of UK’s Betting and Gaming Council (BGC), has called on the government to consider the needs of retail betting outlets in plans for a recovery of the high street. 

The government’s Communities and Local Government Select Committee has begun an inquiry into how to support British high streets following the Covid-19 pandemic.

Simmonds argued that the inquiry should consider the needs of the UK’s 6,900 betting shops, noting that they employ 14,000 people in the country.

She said the industry needed support at a time when footfall remains at only a quarter of pre-Covid-19 levels.

She added that action was needed from central and local government to bring positive change to the high street.

“High streets, in my view, will only survive through a mixture of central government support and intervention and local leadership,” Simmonds said.

She added: “The committee’s recommendations need to be hard hitting and courageous.

“When hospitality, leisure and tourism – including our betting shops and casinos – make such a vital contribution to the UK economy, their needs must be at the forefront of our economic recovery.”

Simmonds was previously a member of the government’s High Streets Forum. She said that visitors to retail betting establishments supported the health of the high street in general, with 82 per cent of customers visiting betting shops once a week and 89 per cent of those visiting other high street shops in the process.

She called on the select committee’s inquiry to review business rates, which she said have needed addressing for some time.

She said: “Undoubtedly, the select committee inquiry will need to look at business rates which have been due for fundamental review for some years.

“This summer has also seen an important debate on high rents and intractable landlords, which is another area the committee members should look at.”

Betting shops in the UK began reopening on June 15 after three months of lockdown due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

To reopen they had to complete a risk assessment in line with government health and safety legislation.

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