The Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) has urged the Welsh government to offer their Business Rates Retail Discount to bingo halls, along with other betting outlets, to protect industry jobs.
In March, the UK government expanded the scheme to cover such outlets in England, giving them 100% business rates relief to offset the effects of closure in the ongoing coronavirus lockdown. But current government policy in Wales states that this discount is not applicable to bingo halls or other betting venues, a difference that the BGC say will put the sector at risk.
The BGC say that there are over 300 such venues in Wales, and that if the national government does not change its stance, all the venues could be at risk of permanent closure, with the possibility that more than 2,000 people could be put out of work. The BGC chief executive Michael Dugher has written to finance minister Rebecca Evans, outlining his concerns:
“Without assistance with business rates relief, similar to that offered to other sectors in Wales, including other parts of the hospitality, leisure and entertainment industries, there is a real danger that betting shops and casinos will permanently close leading to the direct loss of over 2000 jobs in Wales.”
He added that venues had been given a lifeline in England when the UK government extended their rates relief scheme to cover the sector, and that this was in recognition of the contribution that they make to sport and the economy, as well as the important role that bingo halls and betting shops have played in helping to support the lockdown to prevent the spread of the virus.
The change in England followed action by the BGC, which said that the original decision to not include gambling venues in the scheme was bizarre. And Dugher said that it was important that the government in Wales recognised that those working in the regulated sector in Wales were as deserving of consideration as those in England.