Industry standards body the Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) has urged the UK Treasury to extend business rates relief to help unlock the British economy as it emerges from the latest lockdown.
In a letter to Chancellor Rishi Sunak, setting out a five point plan ahead of the Budget, BGC Chief Executive Michael Dugher says the betting and gaming sector – which supports over 100,000 jobs, contributes £4.5 billion in taxes and generates £7.7 billion for the economy – is eager to play its part in the recovery.
But, with the industry – and much of the wider economy – still in a fragile state, he says government must continue to support business through this next difficult phase.
Michael Dugher said: “By any measure, the betting and gaming industry is an important contributor to Britain’s economy. It is our hope that the forthcoming Budget will be a springboard to recovery as the country begins to emerge from the Covid-19, unlocking the potential of our high street businesses to return to growth and job creation.
Pressing the Chancellor to extend business rates relief for another year to help hard pressed betting shops and casinos, Michael Dugher said: “With premises shut for much of the past year, this would help protect jobs and remove a major financial pressure on businesses that have suffered a significant loss of income during the pandemic.”
There was also a call for the devolved administrations in Wales and Scotland to provide similar support.
The BGC also reiterated its call that the Government should adhere to its timetable for easing restrictions, data permitting, for betting shops to reopen in line with other non essential retail on 12 April, and for an end to the damaging 10 pm curfew on the night-time economy once casinos and other hospitality venues are finally allowed to reopen on 17 May.
After “a torrid year” in which total gross gambling yield for all betting and gaming fell by £1.7 billion in 2020, and a government-led review into the industry in full swing, the BGC also pushed for a period of stability and certainty, with no further increase in taxation or duties. While there has been an understandable increase in gross gambling yield for online operators as some customers switched from land-based gambling to online during the land-based closures, this in itself has not prevented a major decline in total industry gross gaming yield.
Dugher also warned the pandemic posed a “serious financial challenge” to UK racing and urged the Chancellor – the MP for Catterick racecourse – to ensure that any future regulation of the betting and gaming sector did not undermine the essential support racing receives from betting.