Welsh government urged to save betting shops

The BGC is urging Wales to help betting shops closed during lockdown.
The BGC is urging Wales to help betting shops closed during lockdown.

The UK’s Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) has urged the Welsh Government to save casinos and betting shops through business rates relief.

UK.- The Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) has urged the devolved Welsh Government to save high street betting shops, bingo halls and casinos from folding during the Coronavirus pandemic by reconsidering its rate relief policy.

BGC CEO Michael Dugher has written to Welsh finance minister Rebecca Evans to warn that urgent action is needed to protect betting shops and casinos. He said that more than 2,000 jobs in Wales were at risk.

In March, the UK government expanded its Business Rates Retail Discount scheme to cover betting shops, bingo halls and casinos, meaning they will receive 100 per cent business rate relief due to closing their doors during the Covid-19 lockdown.

But the devolved government of Wales has not included betting venues in its own version of the policy.

The BGC says there are four casinos in Wales, and more than 300 betting shops, which may all be at risk if the Welsh government fails to act.

Dugher said in his letter: “Without assistance with business rates relief, similar to that offered to other sectors in Wales, including other parts of the hospitality, leisure and entertainment industries, there is a real danger that betting shops and casinos will permanently close leading to the direct loss of over 2,000 jobs in Wales.

“In Wales, the industry is at risk of suffering a body blow from which it may never recover unless the Government in Cardiff acts. 

“Betting shops, bingo halls and casinos in England were thrown a lifeline when the UK Government announced it was extending its business rates relief scheme to cover their premises as well, recognising the contribution they make to the economy, to sport and the vital part they are playing in the national effort and in communities to cope with the virus.

“I don’t for a single second think that the Welsh Government is saying that 2,000 workers in Wales who are employed in the regulated betting industry are less worthy of the support they get in England, but we urgently need a re-think on rates. These 2,000 jobs are hardworking men and women with bills to pay and families to care for. Their jobs are worth every bit as much as someone doing the same job in England.”

The UK’s trade association for the amusement and machine sector, Bacta, has meanwhile written to the government to set out its plan for reopening after lockdown.

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