UK betting, casino operators now included in coronavirus rates relief


uk-betting-shops-casinos-coronavirus-rates-reliefUK betting and casino operators will get some financial relief from the government after all, according to the local industry association.

On Wednesday, the Betting & Gaming Council (BGC) issued a statement welcoming “confirmation that our members will qualify for a business rates holiday like all other businesses in the retail, leisure and hospitality industry.”

Last week, the BGC lamented the revelation that betting shops and casinos were somehow ineligible to apply for the government’s plan to exempt retail and hospitality businesses from paying business rates for a year. The rates relief was intended to lessen the financial fallout from the reduction in business volume caused by the mounting COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.

That ineligibility looked even less justifiable after the government ordered the closure of all non-essential ‘social venues’ last Friday, including betting shops, bingo halls and casinos. But sanity has apparently returned (if only temporarily) to parliament, and the BGC welcomed its members’ inclusion in the government’s “unprecedented response to the threat posed to millions of jobs from the coronavirus.”

Following last week’s investor panic, UK-listed gambling operators’ share prices had been on the rise all week and Wednesday proved no exception. Flutter Entertainment closed up 5.4% while GVC Holdings gained 12.1%, Playtech improved 10.6% and William Hill rose 27% to 70.5p, more than twice the company’s ignominious low of 31p on March 19.

The UK’s online gambling operators, who were already on their heels following a wave of regulatory smackdowns for social responsibility failures, have been under even tighter scrutiny since the start of the pandemic, with critics accusing them of steering sports bettors to ‘riskier’ products following the suspension of most sports and racing events.

The All Party Parliamentary Group on Gambling Related Harm has urged operators to back off from overly aggressive marketing and impose daily spending limits of £50 so as not to take advantage of bored bettors who are being forced to work from home.