The world has been facing hard times recently and the situation doesn’t look any better for betting shops operating in Scotland. Recently, the Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) has warned Nicola Sturgeon, the First Minister of Scotland, that Scotland’s betting shops are facing job losses and closures after their earnings suffered a significant hit as a result of the “draconian” restrictions imposed by the Scottish Government.
The Scottish Government has mandated bookmakers to remove chairs, switch off gaming machines, and agree not to show live racing before they’re allowed to re-open as Scotland’s coronavirus lockdown restrictions eased.
According to gaming operators, these measures are far stricter compared to those imposed in other parts of the UK and thus have driven away paying customers, leading to revenue crashes. After Scottish operators re-opened on June 29, they have seen revenue drops as high as 95% compared to the situation before the lockdown. Because of this, Scotland’s 900 betting shops and operators, which employ over 4,500 people, are now operating at a loss, adding uncertainty to their long-term future.
Scottish racing is not exempted from this uncertainty as it relies on vital media rights payments from betting shops which profits have leaned out due to the live racing television ban. Despite all of these, Ms. Sturgeon said that she wanted to get every Scottish betting business trading viably as quickly as possible.
The BGC’s chief executive officer, Michael Dugher, said that their members have already warned them in advance that the draconian restrictions proposed by the Scottish Government were unnecessary and would have devastating results on their businesses and they were recently proven right. He further stated that Ms. Nicola Sturgeon was right in saying that she wanted every business trading viably, but the Scottish Government is singlehandedly destroying the viability of hundreds of betting shops and operators in Scotland as these shops are already bracing themselves for closures. He also stated that thousands of jobs are in danger unless Sturgeon changes her position on the matter. He further stated that he understands the need to restrict the numbers in the betting shops, but he stressed that this can already be done at the entrance, just like with any retail shop in Scotland or as is the case for every other betting establishment across the UK.
Dugher also said that the Scottish government’s mandate on making betting shops open without any chair or live racing videos shows a complete misunderstanding of how betting shops operate, stating that customers don’t sit in for hours. Instead, they like to bet and then sit down and watch how their horse or greyhound performs. He further added that he’s seen betting shops elsewhere in the UK re-open safely with social distancing measures and anti-COVID measures in place such as screens and hand disinfectants, and the same exact measures are present within Scotland.
In light of all this, Dugher is urging Nicola Sturgeon to act and intervene before it is too late to act.