British gambling trade organisation the Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) has hit out at the Scottish government for imposing strict restrictions on betting shops in the country, with chief executive Michael Dugher calling the measures “draconian”.
Scottish betting shops reopened on 29 June after period of closure to the novel coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic, but have been forced to adhere to a range of restrictions.
These include having to remove all seating, switch off gaming machines and not show live racing on television screens for the foreseeable future.
The BGC said these restrictions are harming the sector, estimating that turnover in Scottish betting shops is 95% lower compared to before lockdown.
This, it warned, could also have a negative impact on Scottish racing, which it said relies on media rights payments from betting shops. These payments hae all but dried up due to the in-store television ban.
In addition, the BGC said the measures that Scotland’s 900 betting shops face are far stricter than those imposed on stores in other parts of the UK, which have been able to reopen and operate with greater flexibility.
“Our members warned in advance the draconian restrictions being proposed by the Scottish government were unnecessary and would have a devastating impact on their businesses – sadly they have been proved right,” Dugher said.
“I understand that we need to restrict numbers in shops, but that can be done at the entrance, just like with any other high street retail shop in Scotland or as is the case in every other betting shop elsewhere in the UK.”
Dugher called on Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon to take action, pointing out how she recently stated her desire get every Scottish business “trading viably as quickly as possible”.
“Scottish betting shops are bracing themselves for closures and there are thousands of jobs at stake unless Nicola Sturgeon re-thinks.
“I’ve seen how betting shops elsewhere in the UK have been able to re-open perfectly safely with social distancing and anti-Covid measures like screens and hand sanitisers, and the exact same measures are in place in Scotland.
“We would urge Nicola Sturgeon to intervene before it’s too late.”