Betting Shops Eligible for Restart Grants as England Emerges from Third Lockdown

Betting Shops Eligible for Restart Grants as England Emerges from Third Lockdown

Betting shops were included in a restart grant scheme announced by UK Chancellor Rishi Sunak late last week that aims to help High Street businesses reopen as lockdown restrictions are eased across England.

Ahead of Chancellor Sunak’s Wednesday annual budget speech, he made a series of announcements in which he revealed initial details about his new £5 billion grant scheme.

Under it, betting shops would be eligible to up to £6,000 in direct cash grants per location to prepare for reopening as England emerges from its latest lockdown.

Chancellor Sunak said that while his new scheme would put further strain on public finances, helping businesses restart was “the right thing to do” and that jobs and firms were his priority at this point.

The latest round of funding would take the total amount spent on direct grants to businesses during the coronavirus crisis to £25 billion. The new scheme will replace the current monthly grant scheme.

Betting shops, other retail establishments, hotels, hair salons, gyms, and other non-essential businesses will have the restart grants distributed from April.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson last week announced a roadmap out of lockdown that would see restrictions being lifted in stages over the next month and a half as long as vaccination rates continue to rise and hospitalizations continue to trend downwards.

Betting shops and other non-essential retail are due to resume operations on April 12 at the earliest.

BGC Urges Treasury to Do More to Protect Betting Jobs

The Betting & Gaming Council (BGC), a standard body championing UK’s betting and gaming sectors, welcomed the news that High Street gambling establishments would be eligible to restart grants, but urged the UK Treasury to take further steps to help the industry recover.

In a letter to Chancellor Sunak dated February 26, BGC’s CEO, Michael Dugher, called for an extension of business rates relief for another year. UK’s betting shops, casinos, and other gambling establishments have been closed for much of the past year.

The above request was one of five made by Mr. Dugher as part of BGC’s efforts to ensure the new Budget “will be a springboard to recovery” and unlock “the potential of our businesses to return to growth and job creation.”

UK’s gambling sectors, including retail and online, currently employ more than 100,000 people and contributed more than £4.5 billion in taxes in duties to the Treasury, as per BGC’s letter.

Aside from a call for extended business rates relief, Mr. Dugher also asked the Government to provide the industry with a period of “stability and certainty” with no further tax and duty hikes, and to adhere to its current roadmap for easing restrictions and allow betting shops reopen in line with non-essential retail and casinos in line with hospitality establishments.

BGC’s letter also sought assurance that “funding for devolved administrations is made available to all business sectors in need”, referring to the fact that the governments of Wales and Scotland do not offer business rates relief to gambling businesses.

The last point of the letter sought assurance that future betting and gaming regulation “is measured and does not undermine the regulated market and the sports that it supports, particularly racing.” Mr. Dugher paid particular attention to a recent proposal by the UK Gambling Commission to introduce arbitrary affordability checks on all gambling customers, no matter their risk profile, when they reach a low spend level.

According to BGC, many customers would refuse to provide pay slips and bank statements to operators to perform such checks and this could result in racing losing £60 million in much needed funds.

Source: “Betting shops eligible for grants of up to £6,000 a site in £5bn recovery plan”, Racing Post, February 28, 2021

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