The BGC has called for the Welsh government to ensure jobs in the gambling sector are better protected.
The Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) has written to the Welsh government, calling upon the government to extend the Business Rates Retail Discount to include bingo halls, betting shops and casinos to help protect industry jobs.
In March, the UK government expanded the business rates holiday to cover retail gambling venues that were forced to close due to the coronavirus pandemic. This meant that venues such as bingo halls, betting shops and casinos in the UK would be exempt from paying business rates.
However, the government policy in Wales states that the Business Rates Retail Discount does not apply to betting shops.
The BGC’s letter to the Welsh government
The BGC said that as betting shops and other retail gambling venues are not covered by the Business Rates Retail Discount, jobs across the sector will be put at risk.
According to the BGC’s statement, Wales houses more than 300 betting shops and four casinos, and if the government does not make changes to its policy, all venues may risk permanent closure putting more than 2,000 jobs at risk.
In a letter to Welsh finance minister Rebecca Evans, BGC chief executive Michael Dugher said: “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 2000 jobs in Wales.
“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.”
UK government extends business rates holiday to gambling sector
In March, after the country-wide lockdown came into effect, the UK government announced a comprehensive relief package to help businesses affected by the pandemic. One of the measures made all retail, hospitality and leisure businesses exempt from paying business rates for 12 months.
When the relief package was initially announced, the BGC criticized the government for not including the gambling industry, but on 26 March, the package was extended to cover the gambling sector.
Gambling businesses in the UK are now be eligible for government grants that cover up to 80% of salaries for workers who are unable to work due to the shutdown of gambling businesses amid the coronavirus pandemic.
On top of this, gambling businesses will benefit from the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme, a 12-month interest-free scheme. The government will also defer VAT payments for business for the next financial quarter.