BGC urges flexibility over UK furlough scheme

1 June 2020

The Betting and Gaming Council (BGC), the body that represents Great Britain's betting and gambling industry, has urged the government to continue to be flexible as it prepares to taper off its novel coronavirus (Covid-19) furlough scheme in order to protect jobs in the sector.

Chancellor Rushi Sunak implemented the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme in March to help workers impacted by the outbreak, pledging that the government would pay 80% of their wages up to £2,500 per month.

Sunak last week confirmed that the scheme would finish at the end of October, but employers would need to start contributing to the costs of the initiative from August.

Businesses will be required to pay National Insurance and pension contributions from August, then 10% of pay from September and 20% in October. Staff would also be permitted to return to work on a part-time basis in July, but employers would need to pay 100% of their wages.

The BGC said it welcomed the announcement, saying the ongoing support would enable bingo halls and casinos to get back up and running while retaining control over staffing costs.

Betting shops, bingo halls and casinos have been closed since 20 March as part of an effort to slow the spread of Covid-19. Betting shops are due to start reopening from 15 June along with other ‘non-essential retail’.

“Any help for businesses from the government at this time of global crisis is of course welcome, and we thank the Chancellor for providing more clarity on how the furlough scheme will operate until the end of October,” BGC chief executive Michael Dugher said.

“Even though the lockdown is easing, many of our member companies – and in particular in casinos and bingo halls – will be forced to operate at a reduced capacity for the foreseeable future because of the need to maintain strict social distancing.”

The scheme had initially been due to run until the end of July, though this was extended last month due to the ongoing Covid-19 crisis. The BGC praised the decision, saying it would help protect jobs, with around 64,000 people working in the UK retail betting and gaming sector.

Gambling and betting operators have also benefitted from the Business Rates Retail Discount, meaning they will receive 100% business rates relief in recognition that they had to close as part of measures to slow the spread of coronavirus.

Dugher said that as many retail gambling facilities will be forced to operate at a reduced capacity for the foreseeable future in order to adhere to strict social distancing, ongoing support from the government would be widely welcomed.

“Given the significant contribution the hospitality and leisure sector makes to the UK economy, we would urge Mr Sunak keep being flexible and acknowledge that it will continue to need support from the government as the country emerges from the pandemic,” Dugher said.

“We have had super engagement with the government up until now, and we look forward to that continuing so we can ensure the betting and gaming industry can play its full part in getting the UK back on its feet.”