Hundreds of betting shops across Scotland will be forced to close this week under new COVID-19 restrictions.
This week, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced that 11 Scottish council areas would be moving to level four Covid restrictions until December 11. The areas affected include East and West Dunbartonshire, East Renfrewshire, Glasgow, Renfrewshire, North and South Lanarkshire, West Lothian, Stirling, and East and South Ayrshire.
The restrictions mean that all non-essential shops, as well as pubs, restaurants, gyms, casino venues, and betting shops, will be required to close from this Friday (November 20) until December 11. Schools will remain open and professional sport such as horseracing will be allowed to continue.
Sturgeon warned people living in Scotland under level three and four restrictions to avoid travelling within their own council area except for “certain essential purposes”. People living outside of level three and four regions have been urged to avoid travelling to said areas unless for “essential purposes”, and there is currently a ban on all non-essential travel between Scotland and the UK.
Speaking about the new restrictions, First Minister Sturgeon said there were grounds for “continued and significant concern” about the infection levels of COVID-19 in all council areas moving to level four restrictions.
“The infection rate in all of these areas remains stubbornly and worryingly high,” she said. “At these levels, we simply do not have the assurance we need that hospital and ICU services will be able to cope as we go deeper into winter.”
As reported by Racing Post, under the new restrictions, around 487 betting shops will be forced to close, which is more than half of all betting shops located in Scotland.
Addressing the new COVID restrictions and betting shop closures, a spokesperson for the Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) said: “The BGC fully supports the Scottish government’s efforts to slow the spread of COVID-19.
“Nevertheless, it is extremely disappointing for staff and customers that betting shops in these council areas will now unfortunately have to close, not least because of the excellent anti-COVID measures which have enabled them to operate safely since they re-opened in the summer.”
They added: “We hope that the shops will be able to re-open as soon as possible so they can go back to contributing to the economy.”
Meanwhile, England is currently under a national lockdown until December 2, after which the UK Government is hoping to reintroduce its tiered system of restrictions for areas with high COVID-19 infection rates.
Under the current lockdown restrictions, all betting shops and brick-and-mortar casino venues have been forced to close, putting dozens of businesses and jobs at risk.
The news comes after the entire Scottish casino industry announced the launch of a brand new campaign which has urged the Scottish Government to reconsider the closure of casino venues under current COVID-29 restrictions.
All casinos across the country have been forced to close under all COVID level restrictions, sparking concern that long-term closures could lead to job losses and businesses closures.
To combat the harmful effects of current restrictions, Grosvenor Casino, Scotland’s largest casino operator, has launched its ‘The Chips Are Down: Save Our Casinos, Save Our Jobs” campaign alongside operators Genting Casino and Caesars Entertainment, as well as the Betting and Gaming Council (BGC).
The aim of the campaign is to encourage First Minister Nicola Sturgeon to allow casino venues to open under level two restrictions, rather than forcing them to remain closed under all levels. Around 11 casinos in Aberdeen, Glasgow, Edinburgh, and Dundee have all signed a petition supporting the campaign, Gambling Insider reports.
They’ve pointed out that non-essential businesses like pubs, restaurants, and cinemas have been allowed to continue trade under level two restrictions and below, but casinos, which they argue are just as safe, have not been allowed to continue operating under the same restrictions.
Jonathon Swaine, the Managing Director at Grosvenor Casinos, said in a statement: “We cannot stress enough how damaging it is that casinos across Scotland are being imposed with these arbitrary restrictions.
“As an industry, we provide ultra-safe venues for colleagues and customers to visit. There is not a shred of evidence that supports the decision to keep casinos closed in level two, while other hospitality venues are able to stay open.”
He continued: “If Scottish casinos are forced to remain closed it will have a devastating impact on those customers who enjoy their local venues as a community hub, on team members who lose their jobs, on the local suppliers it serves, on the charities that they are proud to support, as well as on the wider economy which will lose millions of pounds in tax receipts.”
Michael Dugher, the Chief Executive of the BGC, added: “Closing them makes no sense, especially when other parts of the hospitality sector are being allowed to stay open.”
The BGC has spent the last few months heavily campaigning for the safe reopening of betting shops and casino venues across the UK. The gambling businesses were some of the last to reopen following the first UK lockdown, and the BGC has been calling on the UK Government to immediately reopen all venues once England’s lockdown has ended.
The organisation has also been working to raise standards within the gambling industry alongside the UK Gambling Commission. Together, the organisations have launched a new code of conduct on the design and play of video slots to clamp down on the number of people experiencing gambling-related harm.
The BGC has helped launch the whistle-to-whistle ban on TV gambling advertisements too and earlier this year announced new measures to prevent under gambling ad exposure. Meanwhile, the UK Gambling Commission banned credit card use for gambling and has launched new rules regarding VIP schemes and loyalty programmes.