UK Introduces Coronavirus Countermeasures for Casinos, Industry Says More is Needed

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The UK government is pledging to help casinos affected by the new coronavirus, but one industry body doesn’t believe they are doing enough.

Rishi Sunak
UK Chancellor Rishi Sunak has pledged support for casinos and betting shops as part of a $385 billion coronavirus countermeasure. (Image: The Sunday Times)

With coronavirus forcing casinos and betting shops across the UK to close, Chancellor Rishi Sunak has guaranteed £330 billion/$385 billion to help the business sector.

The emergency budget includes a number of measures designed to ease the financial strain over the coming months.

Countermeasures Won’t Stop Industry Pain

As part of its coronavirus countermeasures, the government will provide gambling businesses with 100% business rates relief for 12 months. Additionally, companies operating stores with a ratable value between $17,600 and $60,000 will be given a $29,000 grant.

Although appreciated, chief executive of the Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) Michael Dugher says the industry needs more help. In forwarding his concerns to the government, Dugher outlined the impact coronavirus could have on UK betting.

“Casinos face an immediate crisis as customer levels drop by up to 90% as tourism grinds to a halt, with real fears for thousands of staff and entire businesses.

High Street Betting shops face a decrease of up to 60% trade on sports betting alone as confirmation came through that the Grand National (horse race) will be canceled, along with all other major sporting events,” reads a press release issued Monday.

As the representative for 90% of UK operators, including William Hill and Grosvenor, the BGC has spoken to its members about the pandemic.

Dugher says members of the BGC Council directly employ more than 70,000 people, and that the industry contributes $3.7 billion in taxes to the UK Treasury each year.

Problems for One, Problems for All

Based on the facts, Dugher believes that a crisis for gambling will become a crisis for the UK at large.

“This is a national emergency. The Treasury cannot let people in hospitality, leisure, and entertainment hang out to dry,” Dugher said in a press release.

The biggest headache for casinos and betting shop owners is employment costs. Although business rate reliefs will help, operators may need help covering employee wages.

Dugher pointed to Spain as an example of how the government can help. As part of their new temporary measures, the Spanish government has pledged to cover 70% of payroll costs for businesses.

It’s worth noting that Spain’s betting and gaming industry is smaller than the UK’s. However, with casino attendance levels dropping by 90% since mid-March, no measures can be overlooked.

US Government Urged to Match European Efforts

While UK operators are asking for more help, those in the US are fighting for aid of any kind. As casinos across the country, including those in Las Vegas, close on government orders, the American Gaming Association (AGA) released a statement.

Speaking on behalf of AGA members, CEO Bill Miller asked government leaders to support the casino industry as coronavirus spreads.

“As state governments close casinos as a part of the urgent public health response to COVID-19, elected leaders should move just as urgently to support the workers and businesses who will bear the brunt of those effects. Our immediate priorities are actions that provide liquidity to allow us to support employees,” Miller wrote on March 16.

The list of stimulus requests is stacking up for President Trump. Along with solutions to help the oil and gas industry, the president is reviewing a $50 billion bailout request by airlines.

At this time, casino operators may be further down the list than Miller would want. However, with AGA members employing 1.7 million people and paying $8.8 billion in taxes, it’s an industry Trump won’t be able to ignore for long.

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