The Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) has expressed its disappointment over Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s decisions to close betting shops, casinos and adult gaming centres across Merseyside.
During an address to the nation last night, Johnson outlined a new nationwide three tier system to combat the rising spread of COVID-19, which is expected to come into force from tomorrow.
Responding to the announcement, the BGC tweeted: “Hugely disappointing announcement from Boris Johnson that hundreds of betting shops and six casinos, employing 2,300 people, in the Liverpool City region are to close from Wednesday. This is despite there being NO evidence that they contribute to the spread of #COVID19.”
— Betting and Gaming Council (@BetGameCouncil) October 13, 2020
Under the new restrictions, the government stated that pubs, bars, gyms and other hospitality venues will also be forced to close their doors. However, restaurants and pubs serving food will be allowed to open, so long as customers remain seated and different households cannot meet up and mix.
In a letter to local MPs across the region, BGC Chief Executive Michael Dugher wrote: “Across Merseyside, 2,300 people are employed in betting shops and casinos. The decision to close them will likely have a huge impact on employment and the survival of these businesses.
“Our members’ venues abide by strict Covid-19 guidelines and have been approved by Public Health England. There’s no evidence that betting shops or casinos have been the source of any outbreak of the coronavirus or have contributed to a rise in the number of cases.
“Betting shops were safely reopened in June and were classified as non-essential retail. They are not hospitality businesses, yet they are unfairly singled out from other parts of non-essential retail. This will not only impact those businesses but also have a negative impact on the amount of tax they pay and the money that goes to support racing.
“For example, racecourses on Merseyside receive a large portion of their funding from media rights to broadcast racing in betting shops – this will cease the moment shops are closed.
“It is imperative the 350 betting shops and six casinos on Merseyside are kept open. I understand why the City Region is prioritising the economic support package but they can and should argue for these businesses to remain open. They are not looking for a handout.
“They simply wish to stay open safely and contribute to the local economy and the exchequer. We urge you to make the strongest representation to the government against this arbitrary decision.”
In addition, retail, schools and universities will remain open as the government aims to bring down an R number that SAGE has predicted is currently between 1.2 and 1.5 nationally.
Further clarification is needed regarding whether professional sport will take place under tier three restrictions, with measures potentially meaning travel restrictions for sports persons.
With measures expected to be reviewed every four weeks, the government will provide approximately £1 billion in funding for local authorities affected by the measures, which will be in addition to the £3.6 billion Towns Fund.
Speaking at the press conference, Johnson said: “I can report that we have been able to reach agreement with leaders in Merseyside. Local authorities in the Liverpool City Region will move into the ‘very high’ alert level from Wednesday.
“In addition to the baseline I have outlined, that is as well as pubs and bars, in Merseyside gyms and leisure centres, betting shops, adult gaming centres and casinos will also close. I would like to put on record my thanks to Steve Rotheram and his colleagues for their cooperation in very difficult circumstances.
“Engagement with other leaders in the North West, the North East and Yorkshire & Humber is continuing.”
“This is not how we want to live our lives but this is the narrow path we must tread between the social and economic trauma of a full lockdown and the human and economic cost of the pandemic. The weeks and months ahead will continue to be difficult and will test the mettle of this country. I have no doubt we will succeed.”