As a response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the UK government has introduced a range of measures to help protect employees and small businesses.
They have been applauded for their 80% ‘relief’ payments to workers that have been furloughed in the wake of the coronavirus lockdown, while mortgage holidays and a freeze on business rates for a whole year have been welcomed by homeowners and business operators alike.
That business rates relief was aimed at firms in the retail and hospitality sectors, but exemptions to the government’s plans meant that they would not be able to enjoy the year-long amnesty.
It was a decision met with horror by industry figures, with the chief executive of the Betting and Gaming Council, Michael Dugher, warning of a ‘wholesale collapse’ of businesses within the gambling sector at a time when there have been more than 1,500 betting shop closures in the past year – roughly five per day.
But it seems that the chancellor, Rishi Sunak, has seen sense and will now lift the restrictions that would have prevented bookmakers from claiming the financial relief. He said:
“We are determined to do whatever it takes to support businesses during Covid-19, which is why we have extended business rates relief for the high street.
“Today, I am removing some of the exclusions for this relief, so that retail, leisure, and hospitality properties that have closed as a result of the measures announced by the prime minister in his statement on Monday will now be eligible for the relief.”
The government had announced on Monday that a number of retail outlets, including betting shops, would be forced to close their doors to help prevent the spread of coronavirus.
On-Course Bookmakers Beg for Help Amid Racing Blackout
For a while, the racing industry tried to limp on despite mounting pressure to adhere to a complete suspension of all meetings.
UK racing continued behind closed doors for a while before the plug was pulled on that, and Irish racing also opted to proceed in low-key fashion until that too was halted following governmental pressure.
All of which follows the cancellation of the Grand National, the annual betting cash cow that nets the industry somewhere in the region of £100 million.
Racecourse closures have cost many their sole source of income, and few have been hit harder than on-course bookmakers.
These betting ring odds-suppliers have seen their revenue dry up completely, and now they are turning to the UK Gambling Commission for assistance at such a tough time.
They have to pay fees to the regulator in order to secure their pitch, and that cost varies depending on how may meetings they plan to cover during the season.
And now the hope is that the UKGC will allow all on-course bookies to pay the lowest rate in order to preserve their future amid the uncertainty.
The director of the Federation of Racecourse Bookmakers, Robin Grossmith, commented:
“Once the full racing calendar is restored, we will then be able to calculate if this is the correct amount or if bookmakers need to upgrade their licence to the middle or upper tier.”
In response, a UK Gambling Commission spokesperson said:
“Our CEO Neil McArthur is speaking to representatives across the industry to understand their concerns.
“We know from those conversations that people’s welfare is everyone’s paramount concern and we want to help in whatever ways we can.”