Betting industry body, the Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) has suggested that the UK betting sector may need more government support as the UK’s pandemic lockdown eases.
The BGC has called on the UK government to extend its approach of aiding businesses flexibly as the shutdown ends. Although the Council said that they welcomed Rishi Sunak’s pledge to continue support for companies affected by the pandemic until October, a commitment that will support the 64,000 people currently working in the retail gaming and betting industry, they emphasise that further support for the leisure and hospitality sector could be necessary.
The UK’s furlough scheme, under which the government has committed to pay 80 per cent of wages up to the level of £2,500 a month, is set to run until the end of July. From August employers will then be liable to pay employees’ National Insurance and pension contributions, and from September, they will have to pay 10% of furloughed staff’s wages, a figure that rises to 20% in October.
The BGC acknowledge that the current assistance will offer significant help to bingo halls and casinos to enable them get back up and running while ensuring they retain control over staffing, which is their biggest cost, but added that sector-specific aid may be required due to the ongoing rules on social distancing, which will remain in place even as venues are opening.
Speaking about the government scheme, the Chief Executive of the BGC, Michael Dugher, said the current help from the government, including the commitment to support the furlough scheme until the end of October, was welcome. But he added that many businesses in the sector will be operating at reduced capacity for some considerable time and urged the government to continue their support:
“Given the significant contribution the hospitality and leisure sector makes to the UK economy, we would urge Mr Sunak keep being flexible and acknowledge that it will continue to need support from the Government as the country emerges from the pandemic.”
Dugher also emphasised that the BGC has had excellent engagement with ministers and that he wanted that engagement to continue so that the betting and gaming industry can play a part in helping to get the UK back onto its feet.
Casinos, bingo halls and betting shops have been shut since March 20, but under current plans, betting shops and a range of other retail venues will be allowed to reopen from June 15.