UK gaming industry appeals as venues to close in Liverpool

Casinos and betting shops in Liverpool have been ordered to close from Wednesday.
Casinos and betting shops in Liverpool have been ordered to close from Wednesday.

The BGC and BHA have criticised the decision to close casinos and betting shops as three-tier measures are introduced to combat Covid-19.

UK.- The gaming and betting industry has criticised the UK government’s decision to close casinos, betting shops and gaming centres in Merseyside as part of a tightening of Covid-19 measures.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced yesterday evening that businesses will have to close from Wednesday as Merseyside is placed in the highest tier of a new nationwide three-tier system design to tackle increasing numbers of Covid-19 infections.

Groups including the British Horseracing Association and the Betting and Gaming Council criticised the decision, arguing that there was no evidence to support the need to close gaming and betting venues.

The BHA said: “Betting operators have shown they can safely operate shops without breaching social distancing restrictions so we don’t understand the basis for their closure when other retail outlets are unaffected.

“Racing and betting share a unique, interdependent relationship. Any measures taken which result in the potential closure of thousands of betting shops, which generate critical revenues for British racing through the Levy and media rights payments, will have a hugely damaging impact on both industries’ finances.

“This is all the more acute for British racing awing to the continued absence of spectators on British racecourses, and further demonstrates the need for immediate financial support for our industry.”

The body called on the government to adopt an evidence-based approach to lockdown measures. 

It said: “We strongly encourage the government to make a fully evidence-based decision on any betting shop closures, cognisant of the significant wider impacts on British racing and associated industries.”

The new tier system announced by Johnson means that areas with particularly high rates of infections will be placed in tier three, with all household mixing banned and many businesses having to close. Restaurants will be able to remain open and sports events can continue.

Areas in tier one will continue to implement the existing nationwide restrictions, which include a 10pm curfew for the hospitality industry, including casinos. 

The Betting and Gaming Council said the announcement was “hugely disappointing”.

It noted that the six casinos and 350 betting shops in the area around Liverpool employ 2,300 people.

Its chief executive, Michael Dugher, wrote in a letter to MPs: “Across Merseyside, 2,300 people are employed in betting shops and casinos. The decision to close them will likely have a huge impact on employment and the survival of these businesses.

“Our members’ venues abide by strict Covid-19 guidelines and have been approved by Public Health England. There’s no evidence that betting shops or casinos have been the source of any outbreak of the coronavirus or have contributed to a rise in the number of cases.

“Betting shops were safely reopened last June and were classified as ‘non-essential retail’. They are not hospitality businesses, yet they are unfairly singled out from other parts of non-essential retail.

“This will not only impact those businesses but also have a negative impact on the amount of tax they pay and the money that goes to support racing. For example, racecourses on Merseyside receive a large portion of their funding from media rights to broadcast racing in betting shops – this will cease the moment shops are closed.

“It is imperative the 350 betting shops and six casinos on Merseyside are kept open. I understand why the City Region are prioritising the economic support package but they can and should argue for these businesses to remain open.”

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