The Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) has urged the UK Chancellor to provide emergency help to save thousands of jobs across the gambling industry, after fresh concerns were raised over the impact of the novel coronavirus disease (Covid-19) on the sector.
The UK government yesterday (16 March) issued new advice for people to avoid social contact and stop all non-essential travel, in order to help slow the spread of the disease.
However, the BGC said the government must match this public health response with emergency help for businesses and employees that will be impacted as a result of the new measures.
Having consulted its members on the impact of the restrictions, the BGC said the immediate priority for emergency assistance is with employment costs. As such, the BGC has urged the Chancellor to allow additional time to pay on Pay As You Earn (PAYE) and National Insurance Contributions (NIC) liabilities.
The BGC also called for a temporary suspension to consultation periods, as well as business rates relief and time to pay on duties and corporation tax.
Other recommendations put forward by the BGC include for all banks to extend existing SME support on interest suspension and repayment holidays, and also for reform of business rates in their budget submission, including changing the rules to allow more businesses to use the small business retail rate relief.
From its own research, the BGC has estimated that in the past week, customer levels have dropped by up to 90% at some casinos, as more people choose to stay away from crowds or self-isolate.
The BGC said betting shops face a decrease of up to 60% trade on sports betting alone, as the Grand National became the latest major sports event to be cancelled as a result of coronavirus. Coupled with a decline in customers, the BGC said that fears have grown for staff and business.
In terms of online gambling, the BGC said that despite consumers still being able to access such services without interacting with others, the amount of sports events that have been postponed or cancelled will mean less for customers to bet on. As such, this is likely to significantly cut sports betting revenue for members.
“Like all other parts of the hospitality, leisure and entertainment industries, the immediate priority for the future of our members in the casino, bingo and betting industry is the ability to pay staff,” BGC chief executive Michael Dugher said.
“We urgently need temporary government support to help cover payroll costs, relief and time to pay duties and taxes, as well as access to finance. Treasury in particular need to step up and understand that insurance simply doesn’t cover the impact of a pandemic.
“We are speaking with the Government to ensure they are fully aware of the crisis facing our members and discussing the steps necessary to help the leisure industry and their staff through this incredibly challenging period.”
The BGC also highlighted the action taken by governments in other countries to help protect jobs, In Spain, temporary government support is provided where 70% of payroll is covered by the government, while France has unveiled a plan to guarantee €300bn of loans to support businesses.
“This is a national emergency. The government’s public health response has to be matched in scale by emergency help for businesses and employees. The Treasury cannot let people in the hospitality, leisure and entertainment hang out to dry,” Dugher added.