The Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) has called for an extension to business rates relief to help “unlock the British economy” as lockdown measures are set to ease in the coming months.
The BGC’s Chief Executive Michael Dugher made the plea in a letter written to Chancellor Rishi Sunak over the weekend ahead of March 3rd’s budget on which Rishi Sunak will make several announcements regarding the next financial year.
In the letter, Dugher shared a five-point plan which he believes will help the gambling industry, which Dugher points out contributes £4.5 billion in taxes and generates more than £7 billion for the UK economy, and the wider UK economy recover from the Covid-19 pandemic.
Dugher said in the letter: “By any measure, the betting and gaming industry is an important contributor to Britain’s economy. It is our hope that the forthcoming Budget will be a springboard to recovery as the country begins to emerge from the Covid-19, unlocking the potential of our high street businesses to return to growth and job creation.”
Part of the five-point plans includes an extension to the business relief rates, which were introduced last March. The gambling industry was initially exempt from the business relief rates but was eventually included after mounting pressure from the BGC.
Urging Sunak to extend business rates relief, Dugher said: “With premises shut for much of the past year, this would help protect jobs and remove a major financial pressure on businesses that would have suffered a significant loss of income during the pandemic.”
Alongside pushing for the extension, Dugher stated that “after a torrid year”, the gambling industry needs a period of “stability and certainty” and calls for no further increases in taxation of duties as they would only “hasten the alarming growth of the illegal online black market” and undermine efforts to “reduce problem gambling”.
The BGC’s Michael Dugher also urged that the Government adheres to its roadmap for easing lockdown restrictions, including the reopening of betting shops with all non-essential retail on April 12th. Dugher also called on the Government to end the controversial 10 PM casino curfew when venues reopen in May.
Dugher’s final two plans include ensuring that the devolved administration in Wales and Scotland provide similar support to businesses across the countries and to ensure that future betting and gaming regulation does not undermine the support racing receives from betting.
The BGC has also reiterated its commitment to safer gambling this week following the release of a report by the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC).
Last week, the UKGC published its quarterly report into gambling participation in the year ending December 2020, and the gambling regulator discovered a 0.3% fall in the rate of problem gambling in 2020. The UKGC’s study of 4,007 UK adults also found that the rate of gamblers classed as being of “moderate risk” fell, along with the rate of gamblers classed as of “low risk”.
Speaking about the findings, Wes Himes, the BGC’s Executive Director for Standards and Innovation, said in a statement on the BGC website: “Since being established in 2019, we have worked tirelessly to drive up standards in the regulated betting and gaming industry and promote safer gambling.
“Our initiatives have included encouraging deposit limits, investing more in research, education and treatment, and introducing tough new rules on VIP schemes and game design.”
He continued: “One problem gambler is one too many, however, and we are determined to keep up the momentum in the months ahead. For example, we’re looking at how we extend filtering for online ads and are working with online platforms on opt-outs for betting advertising.
“We look forward to engaging with the Government’s Gambling Review to ensure a safer gambling environment.”
Similarly, over the weekend, Tim Miller, the Executive Director of Research and Policy at the Gambling Commission, reiterated the regulator’s obligation to making gambling “safer, fairer and crime-free”.
In a speech made at the Westminster Media Forum, Miller explained the UK Gambling Commission’s strategy and responded to the increased media attention the industry and the organisation have received over the last few months.
He said: “As a statutory regulator, it is right that we are scrutinised and held to account for how we deliver the licensing objectives, and we know that different groups may have very different views about how our role should be performed.
“In particular, we welcome greater interest from Parliament in making gambling safer. Whether that interest is long-held, came from concerns over FOBTs or is yet more recent, we welcome the diversity of interest and perspective that this greater scrutiny brings.”
In his speech, obtained via CasinoBets, Miller promised to continue taking actions “whilst the Gambling Act review continues” and warned operators that they should avoid getting distracted from the task at hand.
Miller ended the speech by reiterating that the Commission is working hard to “make Great Britain the safest place to gamble in the world”. He continued: “We want to achieve this through collaboration.
“We recognise the unprecedented pressures on businesses, and we know that some operators have been forced to make tough decisions to keep businesses and jobs viable in recent months. But we won’t hold back. Operators must raise their standards to meet ours. We want to do more to help things go right in the first place. But we will intervene when things go wrong.”
He added: “The last twelve months have undoubtedly been tough for all of us. But even through the turbulence of the pandemic, progress is being made in making gambling safer. The evidence is suggesting that we are on the right track. So let’s keep on going together.”