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“emergency help to save thousands of jobs” needed

Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) call on Chancellor for “emergency help to save thousands of jobs” in casino, betting, bingo and other leisure, hospitality and entertainment industries, following PM’s updated COVID-19 advice

* Immediate and top priority call for emergency assistance on employment costs

*Relief and time to pay on taxes and duties, plus urgent access to finance also required

* Casinos face an immediate crisis as customer levels drop by up to 90% as tourism grinds to a halt, with real fears for thousands of staff and entire businesses.

* High Street Betting shops face a decrease of up to 60% trade on sports betting alone as confirmation came through that the Grand National will be cancelled, along with all other major sporting events.

* The BGC’s call for help follows the most recent advice from the Prime Minister which includes everyone should avoid social gatherings and crowded places, such as pubs, clubs and theatres, and should work from home if they can.

BGC members – which include betting shops, online betting, gaming and casinos – directly employ more than 70,000 people across the UK and our industry contributed some £3.2 billion in taxes last year.

The safety of the public and staff remains the top priority for everyone involved in the betting and gaming industry during this unprecedented health emergency and with this there is an unprecedented financial pressure on employers.

The BGC has widely consulted its members on the impact of the restrictions being put in place to help tackle COVID-19.

The most immediate priority for emergency assistance is with employment costs. Time to pay on Pay As You Earn (PAYE) and National Insurance Contributions (NIC) liabilities should also be introduced along side temporary suspension to consultation periods if the permanent workforce is to be flexed speedily enough in line with attendances to ensure business continuity. Business rates relief and time to pay on duties and corporation tax should also be introduced.

The BGC have also highlighted the model of support introduced in other countries. In Spain, temporary government support is provided where 70% of payroll is covered by the government; France has unveiled a plan to guarantee €300bn of loans to support businesses through the disruption and Denmark has announced a deal with employers that will see the state pay 75 per cent of the wages of staff at risk of redundancy during the outbreak for the next three months.

The BGC are also calling for banks to extend existing SME support on interest suspension and repayment holidays.

The BGC has called for reform of business rates in their budget submission, including changing the rules to allow more small businesses to take advantage of the small business retail rate relief. However, the crisis facing businesses has dramatically worsened in past few days with increasing restrictions on the movement of people and the cancellation of sporting events.

The betting and gaming industry has undergone seismic change in the past year before the onset of COVID-19. Betting shops are still adjusting to a reduction in the maximum stake on gaming machines. At the same time online gaming duty has increased from 15% to 21% of Gross Gaming Yield. Over 1,500 betting shops have closed since the new maximum stake in April 2019, a rate of five a day.

In the past week customer levels have dropped by up to 90% at some casinos as tourism grinds to a halt, with real fears for thousands of staff and entire businesses.

Betting shops face a decrease of up to 60% trade on sports betting alone as confirmation came through that the Grand National will be cancelled along with all other major sporting events. Coupled with dramatic falls in customers due to advice to avoid public places, fears have grown significantly for staff and business.

Online businesses are not immune either, with sports betting playing a major source of revenue for many of our members. The racing industry will also be particularly hard hit and we are in discussions with them as to how we can support each other to keep our two industries operational.

The BGC members are committed to providing a safe environment for staff and customers and to ensuring the highest standards in betting and gaming. Our members will be reminding customers that should they feel concerned about their gambling during this period help remains available through the National Gambling helpline and other charities. We will also be encouraging customers to set limits using the tools available in shops and online and to stick to them.

Michael Dugher, BGC chief executive said:

“We face an unprecedented challenge to keep both customers and staff safe during the COVID-19 health crisis.

“Like all other parts of the hospitality, leisure and entertainment industries, the immediate priority for the future of our members in the casino, bingo and betting industry is the ability to pay staff. We urgently need temporary government support to help cover payroll costs, relief and time to pay duties and taxes, as well as access to finance. Treasury in particular need to step up and understand that insurance simply doesn’t cover the impact of a pandemic.

“We are speaking with the Government to ensure they are fully aware of the crisis facing our members and discussing the steps necessary to help the leisure industry and their staff through this incredibly challenging period.

“This is a national emergency. The Government’s public health response has to be matched in scale by emergency help for businesses and employees. The Treasury cannot let people in the hospitality, leisure and entertainment hang out to dry”.

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