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Betting and Gaming Council says Nicola Sturgeon risks 'wrecking' the viability of Scottish betting shops and warns of closures and job losses unlcess 'draconian' restrictions are lifted

Betting shops in Scotland are facing job losses and closures after takings plummeted as a result of “draconian” restrictions imposed by the Scottish Government, Nicola Sturgeon has been warned.

Uniquely, bookies north of the Border were told they would have to remove chairs, switch off gaming machines and agree not to show live racing before they could re-open as the Covid-19 lockdown is eased.

The measures, which are far stricter than those imposed in other parts of the United Kingdom, have driven frustrated punters away and seen takings tumble, according to operators.

After opening their doors again on 29 June, Scottish operators have seen their turnover fall by up to 95% compared to before lockdown.

That means Scotland’s 900 betting shops, which employ 4,500 people, are now running at a loss – putting a huge question mark over their long-term future.

The uncertainty also extends to Scottish racing, which relies on vital media rights payments from betting shops which have dried up because of the live telly ban.

Last week, First Minister Ms Sturgeon said she wanted to get every Scottish business “trading viably as quickly as possible”.

Michael Dugher, chief executive of the standards body Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) said:

“Our members warned in advance that the draconian restrictions being proposed by the Scottish Government were unnecessary and would have a devastating impact on their businesses – sadly they have been proved right.

“Nicola Sturgeon was right to say she wanted every business ‘trading viably’ but the Scottish Government is single-handedly wrecking the viability of hundreds of betting shops in Scotland. Scottish betting shops are bracing themselves for closures and there are thousands of jobs at stake unless Nicola Sturgeon re-thinks.

“I understand that we need to restrict numbers in shops, but that can be done at the entrance, just like with any other high street retail shop in Scotland or as is the case in every other betting shop elsewhere in the UK.

“Making bookies open without any chairs or live racing shows a complete misunderstanding of how they operate. Customers don’t sit in for hours – they like to pop in for a bet and then sit down and watch how their horse or greyhound got on.

“I’ve seen how betting shops elsewhere in the UK have been able to re-open perfectly safely with social distancing and anti-Covid measures like screens and hand sanitisers, and the exact same measures are in place in Scotland.

“We would urge Nicola Sturgeon to intervene before it’s too late.”

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