BGC calls for Scottish government to give betting shops business rates relief

The Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) has urged business rates relief for Scottish betting shops.

The Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) has warned the Scottish government that thousands of gambling sector jobs are at risk unless betting shops in Scotland are granted business rates relief.

No business rates relief for Scottish betting shops

Scotland’s government has so far excluded betting shops from its business rates relief scheme which was created in order to help companies hit by the coronavirus pandemic. The scheme waves the fees due from eligible businesses during the pandemic.

This is very different from the approach taken in England, where betting shops were given business rates relief to help them during the pandemic. However, in England, betting shops were initially excluded from the scheme before it was amended to include betting shops in late-March.

Scotland’s Ministers have also refused to extend the retail, hospitality, and leisure support grant to betting shops, despite offering the grant to other businesses in the gambling sector such as bingo halls and racetracks.

BGC warns jobs are at risk

The BGC said that the lack of support from the government could lead to the closure of independent betting shops in Scotland, as they struggle to pay their bills.

BGC chief executive Michael Dugher said: “These businesses employ thousands of men and women across Scotland, and they deserve their government’s full support now that they are back at work. If they don’t get it, many will sadly lose their jobs as their shops are forced to close.

“The Scottish government needs to pull out all the stops to prevent that from happening and ensure betting shops can play their part in getting the economy back on its feet.”

The BGC’s call to action included comments from John Heaton, the boss of Scotbet, which has 30 shops across Scotland. Heaton said that the decision to exclude betting shops from the business rate relief could cost his business up to £400,000.

Heaton said: “We feel very frustrated that we haven’t had the financial support independent bookmakers in England and others in the betting and gaming sector here in Scotland have received.

“The sums involved are not material to the large bookmakers but, for us, it is about survival. The likely impact is that the independent sector will die and the big bookmakers carry on regardless, grateful that their independent competitors have been removed for them.”

Scottish betting shops have restrictions overturned

Betting shops in Scotland were permitted to reopen on 29 June, but upon reopening faced several restrictions. These included not being allowed to show live racing events, operate gaming machines, or have chairs in their shops.

However, a campaign led by the BGC helped overturn these restrictions in Scotland and they will be lifted from 22 July.

After the government announced the restrictions would be lifted, Dugher said: “This is great news for Scotland’s 900 betting shops and the 4,500 hard-working staff that they employ. We have always said that the extra restrictions imposed on Scottish betting shops were unnecessary. We are delighted that the Scottish Government has listened and responded.”

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