Those who run betting shops and other gambling operators were dealt a blow on Thursday when the UK government announced that they would not be able to benefit from one of the measures designed to help businesses during the COVID-19 outbreak.
The UK Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced that all hospitality and retail businesses would be free from paying the business rate for a year. But betting shops and a number of other businesses are not eligible to benefit from the relief.
Speaking about the decision, the Chief Executive of the Betting and Gaming Council, Michael Dugher, said that it could lead to widespread closures:
“This decision is a hammer blow to an industry that pays billions in tax, employs 70,000 hardworking, decent people in this country, and it is one that helps keep sports alive, in particular horseracing. Without any form of support or help we will see the wholesale collapse of a number of businesses in our industry.”
Dugher also said that the gambling industry was prepared to help with the effort to tackle the crisis, and that members of the BGC had offered to release staff to help. And he said that they would continue to pressure the government to change their decision.
The two politicians who co-chair the All-Party Parliamentary Racing and Bloodstock Group, Laurence Robertson and Conor McGinn, said that the government needs to ensure that the livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of individuals who depend on the betting and horseracing industries are supported. They called on the government to act to support the sport.
The Federation of Racecourse Bookmakers have also contacted the UK Gambling Commission, over the level of fees they have to pay. The fees are graded by three tiers, according to the number of race meetings the bookmakers attend, but with racing suspended in the UK until the end of March, they will argue that they should not be liable to pay these fees.