Compare.bet News caught up with the Betting and Gaming Council’s Chief Executive Michael Dugher this morning to discuss the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the land-based gambling sector and what’s next for the industry.
The coronavirus pandemic has had a dramatic impact on the UK’s land-based gambling sector in 2020. With arcades, betting shops and casino venues being forced to close their doors over two separate lockdowns and land-based businesses in tier 3 areas still unable to operate it begs the question, when will things return to normal?
Dugher explained that the pandemic has a “huge impact” on the land-based sector which supports over 100,000 jobs and contributes more than £3bn in tax revenue every year.
“It’s been an incredibly tough period and it shows no signs of getting easier, especially in the next few months,” said Dugher. “We know that gross gambling yield and revenue for betting shops is down 45% compared to 2019 and for casinos it’s down around 70% so there has been a huge impact on businesses.”
The BGC chief executive expressed how pleased and relieved the industry was when it was announced in late-March that the wider gambling sector would be able to access the financial support such as furlough and the business rates holiday.
“Casinos deserved the same support as other businesses working in hospitality and entertainment and betting shops deserve the same help as the rest of non-essential retail. We got that help and it was absolutely critical,” said Dugher.
“I do have some sympathy for the government because I think our government, like every government around the world, has had to grapple with challenges that are genuinely without precedent and so to that extent they are having something thrown at them that none of us could have predicted and no government has ever had to deal with before.”
As Dugher explained, things are looking even tougher, especially with the news yesterday that the government’s furlough scheme will be extended until April and that a significant portion of the country has been placed under Tier 3 lockdown restrictions.
On top of this, it has been reported this afternoon that Prime Minister Boris Johnson is “not ruling out” another nationwide lockdown to slow the spread of coronavirus.
Speaking on the prospect of another lockdown, Dugher said: “I think the government is playing silly beggars with the language of it. Tier 3 as is currently the case, feels every bit like a lockdown compared with the restrictions of November.
“If non-essential retail closes in Tier 3 areas, which we have seen in Wales, then for all intents and purposes Tier 3 is a lockdown. If most of the country is in Tier 3, then that’s going to look a lot like a national lockdown and as the government has extended furlough until April, that looks like we are potentially looking at a number of months in the situation and that is very serious.”
Compare.bet News will be publishing the full Q&A with the BGC’s chief executive on Monday morning.