BGC calls for extension to furlough scheme

10 August 2020

The Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) has urged the UK government to extend its novel coronavirus (Covid-19) furlough scheme to help safeguard jobs in the gambling industry and also protect historic casino venues.

The Job Retention scheme, introduced by the government to help keep people employed during the Covid-19 lockdown, is due to finish at the end of October, with certain aspects of the initiative now being wound down.

From this month, employers are once again required to pay the national insurance and pension contributions for their staff, while in September they will also need to pay 20% of employees’ wages, rising to 40% in October.

However, after the government last month delayed the reopening of casinos due to concerns over rising Covid-19 cases, the BGC warned that the decision could lead to half of the UK casino’s workforce losing their jobs. The BGC added that further jobs could also be lost if the government did not offer more support.

The association has therefore called on the government to extend the scheme to help casinos foot the cost of the extended closure, with the two-week delay expected to cost the industry an estimated £14.0m (€15.5m/$18.3m). Casinos will be permitted to reopen from 15 August at the earliest, but this date could still be pushed back further.

“Casino operators have done everything asked of them by Public Health England; they have gone to extraordinary lengths and cost to ensure their venues are Covid-19 secure,” BGC chief executive Michael Dugher said.

“They were rightly given the green light to reopen by public health officials who recognised the significant investment operators had made and the negligible risk they posed.”

Dugher also said that failure to extend the furlough scheme could also lead to the closure of some of the UK’s most famous casino venues, including the London Hippodrome in the city's West End and Les Ambassadeurs casino in Mayfair.

“Some of Britain’s most iconic casinos, who attract high spending visitors from around the world, are sitting idle whilst pubs and restaurants round the corner are open and doing a roaring trade,” Dugher said.

“The government must step in to save these businesses before it’s too late. As a first step, they should extend the full furlough scheme to help offset the £14m casinos are expected to lose as a result of the two week delay and compensate casinos for the wasted costs of the late change of decision on their reopening.”