Government extends business rates holiday to gambling sector

25 March 2020

Gambling industry association the Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) has praised the UK government after it was confirmed that gambling companies will qualify for the business rates holiday designed to mitigate the shut-down enforced by novel coronavirus (Covid-19).

Last week, Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak announced a series of measures to help businesses that may be disproportionately affected by the pandemic, including making all retail, leisure and hospitality businesses exempt from paying business rates for 12 months.

At the time, gambling businesses were not included in the list of companies that would benefit from the scheme, which drew criticism from the BGC.

However, the government has now announced this will also apply to land-based businesses such as betting shops, casinos and bingo halls. This comes after the government on 23 March instructed all casinos, betting shops and bingo halls to temporarily close as part of measures to combat the spread coronavirus.

That announcement came after it was confirmed that gambling businesses would be eligible for government grants to cover up to 80% of salaries for workers unable to do their jobs during the shut-down - something welcomed by the BGC.

“The government are clearly working night and day to beat the virus and to ensure that jobs and businesses throughout our country are protected,” BGC chief executive Michael Dugher said.

“On top of the help on employment, extending help on business rates to all businesses that have had to shut down is another much-needed shot in the arm that will help to protect tens of thousands of jobs.”

Without the ability to generate revenue, the BGC had said that the majority of the 70,000 people working in the UK betting and gaming industry were at risk of losing their jobs due to a project drop in gambling activity.

The BGC said much of this would be due to the cancellation of many major sports and racing events, which account for 75% of UK sports betting spend. BGC members pay over £3bn (€3.3bn/$3.5bn) in annual taxes, contribute £350m to horse racing and between £120m and £200m to the UK tourism sector through international visitors and their spend, the association noted.

In addition to the business rates holiday and job retention scheme, land-based gambling will benefit from certain other measures set out by the Chancellor.

The Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme, which is interest-free for 12 months, is also available to gambling businesses, while the government has agreed to defer the next quarter’s VAT payments for businesses.

“Our industry will in turn do its absolute upmost to help with the fight against the virus and play our part in this historic national effort, including offering up staff and premises to help,” Dugher said.

“And although gambling has fallen markedly with betting shops and casinos closing, and with the lack of sport which accounts for a big chunk of online betting too, we are also stepping up our safer gambling measures at this time.”