UK Government Extends COVID-19 Business Relief Scheme to Gambling Sector

  • Gambling companies now able to obtain a 12-month business rate exemption
  • Measure announced last week initially excluded sector from relief package
  • Government will also cover up to 80% of workers' salaries for hardest-hit operations
  • UK gambling suffering the effects of coronavirus shutdowns and sporting event cancellations
businesswoman using calculator at an office desk
The UK government has extended its COVID-19 business relief scheme to cover retail gambling businesses. [Image:]

Government makes a u-turn

The UK government is now extending its business rate exemption package to allow gambling companies to avail of it.

The aid measure is intended to minimize the damage inflicted on businesses as a result of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. It will exempt those that are hardest-hit by the crisis from the payment of business rates for a year. All non-essential businesses in the region have been shut down in an attempt to contain the spread of COVID-19. 

The Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) praised the government’s move to include gambling operations in the scheme.

Extension of relief scheme

The decision to extend the relief package to gambling businesses was announced on Wednesday. It will now cover the likes of betting shops, bingo halls, and casinos.

The revision comes about a week after Rishi Sunak, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, announced the initial measure. The main sectors covered by the scheme at the time were hospitality, leisure, and retail. Following the announcement, the BGC criticized the Chancellor for not including gambling companies among the eligible industries.

it will now cover the likes of betting shops, bingo halls, and casinos

Gambling companies will also be part of a grant scheme that aims to mitigate potential job losses. The UK government will pay as much as 80% of the salaries of those who have been unable to work following the shutdown of non-essential operations. These businesses will also benefit from a deferral of VAT payments in the next quarter.

BGC welcomes government’s revision

Michael Dugher, the chief executive of the BGC, issued a statement in response to the government’s revised decision. He said, “The government is clearly working night and day to beat the virus and to ensure that jobs and businesses throughout our country are protected.”

a “much-needed shot in the arm” for gambling companies

He added that employees will now be better protected and that the business rate relief will be a “much-needed shot in the arm” for gambling companies.

The revenue-generating capabilities of gambling operations in the UK have been decimated. As a result, the 70,000 people working in the sector across the region would be in danger of losing their jobs if such a measure had not been introduced.

Coronavirus hits gambling hard

Gambling companies in the UK have been hit hard by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Casinos and retail betting shops have shut down while most sporting events around the world have been canceled. This has led the share prices of these companies to plummet, with many issuing profit warnings. 

According to the BGC, major sports events make up about 75% of the sports betting spend in the UK. BGC members pay more than $3.5bn to the UK government each year in the form of taxes. The same members also make significant contributions to the region’s tourism sector and horse racing activity.

There are concerns that due to the nationwide shutdown, British people will turn to online gambling in an excessive manner. To combat the risk, the BGC is ramping up its measures for safer gambling. 

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