BGC slams government over gaming venue closures in Lancashire

The Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) has criticised the UK government after it ordered casinos and betting shops in Lancashire to close as it imposed tier-three restrictions on the county.

The industry standards body, the Betting and Gaming Council (BGC), has slammed the UK government for forcing casinos and betting shops in Lancashire to close as coronavirus cases surge across England.

This comes after Prime Minister Boris Johnson introduced a three-tier system which is intended to simplify and standardise coronavirus restrictions. The new three-tier system will consist of “medium”, “high” and “very high” alert levels.

Under the medium level, the current rule of six and the 10 pm curfew will remain in place. The high alert level will aim to reduce household-to-household transmission by prohibiting mixing between different households.

Areas in the very high alert level will see the strictest measures which include prohibiting social mixing indoors and in gardens as well as the closures of some hospitality and leisure businesses.

Gaming venue closures in Lancashire

Last week, the government placed Lancashire in the “very high” tier of its coronavirus alert level. 

As a result of the new measures, all of the county’s betting shops and three casinos have been ordered to close their doors indefinitely. The betting shops employ 1,100 staff, pay £24m in taxes a year and contribute £6.6m to the British racing industry through horserace betting levy and media rights payments. Lancashire’s three casinos contribute £6m a year in taxes.

Similar measures were imposed on the Liverpool city region which resulted in the temporary closure of 350 betting shops and six casinos, employing 2,300 people.

However, unlike the restrictions imposed on Liverpool, Lancashire’s leisure centres and gyms will be allowed to remain open.

BGC slams government decision

BGC chief executive, Michael Dugher, suggested there has been no evidence that bookmakers and casinos have contributed to the spread of the coronavirus and added that all operators have fully complied with public health guidelines.

Dugher also said that these closures would result in the Treasury losing out on tax revenue and that the racing industry would also be hit incredibly hard.

In a statement, Dugher said: “We understand the government’s need to tackle Covid, but they must balance that with the need to protect jobs. From the beginning of the pandemic, betting shops and casinos have played their full role in the national effort to tackle this virus.

“It is therefore hugely disappointing that as they are starting to get back on their feet again, those venues in Merseyside and Lancashire have had the rug pulled from under them by the Prime Minister.”

Dugher added that the inconsistent implementation of rules in Liverpool and Lancashire “gives the impression that ministers don’t care about jobs in betting shops and casinos.”

“The simple fact is that there is no evidence that closing betting shops and casinos will slow the spread of Covid-19 and any impact from their closure will be negligible. They have followed the public health guidance to the letter, and in many cases have gone above and beyond what is required of them.

“It means that 3,400 hardworking employees in Merseyside and Lancashire will have to stay at home instead of generating the tax revenue that the Treasury so desperately needs.”

Dugher went on to say that it is time for the government to rethink its approach and called for a better financial package to safeguard the future of these venues.

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