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UK’s BGC hits out at “unfair” closures under Tier 3 restrictions

20th October 2020 1:40 pm GMT
Sportradar

The UK’s Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) has called on Business Secretary Alok Sharma to intervene over the Government’s decision to close betting shops and casinos under Tier 3 coronavirus restrictions.

Bookmakers and land-based casinos have been included in the list of businesses having to close in areas placed under Tier 3 coronavirus restrictions in the UK, such as Merseyside and Lancashire.

This is despite all venues re-opening in June with stringent anti-COVID measures in place, including perspex screens and track and trace systems.

The BGC has accused the Government of behaving in an “ill-informed and arbitrary” way over the decision to order the closure despite a lack of evidence that they contribute to the spread of COVID-19.

In a letter to Business Secretary Alok Sharma, BGC chief executive Michael Dugher said that the move puts tens of thousands of jobs in the industry at risk.

“The singling out of betting shops for closure is unfair, unnecessary and runs counter to the sensible approach the Government had previously adopted,” said Dugher. “This decision looks ill-informed, arbitrary, and along with plans to close COVID-secure casinos (that had offered to give up selling alcohol) it frankly looks anti-gambling industry.

“It will have a hugely negative impact on our businesses and staff, despite their efforts to ensure a very safe environment for customers that is well beyond any other non-essential retail business.”

Under the Tier 3 restrictions, bookmakers and casinos are the only part of non-essential high street retail having to close.

The BGC has also written to local leaders in Tier 2 areas urging them to oppose the forced closure due to the lack of evidence that they spread the virus.

Dugher pointed out that SAGE, the committee of scientific experts advising the Government on its COVID response, had noted that high street shops have a “very minimal impact” on the spread of the virus.

“I therefore would like to ask for your support to intervene on behalf of betting shops, an important part of high street retail and an industry that contributes over £3bn in tax every year,” said Dugher. “I share one hundred per cent the Government’s determination to tackle the spread of COVID.

“The decision to close betting shops won’t help with that, but it does put in jeopardy an industry that will be much-needed to help power the economy and the Exchequer to recovery.”

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