Only days following the Scottish Government’s announcement that it was lifting the controversial ban on gambling machines, betting shops in the country have been ordered to once again switch off the machines.
A shocking U-turn was made by the authorities, who told local bookmakers they must stop offering their customers access to the machines until further notice. The most surprising about the change was the fact that the Scottish Government has agreed to lift the additional restrictions that were faced by local betting shops at the time they reopened on June 29th after the lengthy coronavirus lockdown.
The owners of betting outlets in Scotland were suspended not only from switching the gaming machines on and displaying any live racing but also from having chairs for customers to sit on. The strict measures accounted for a considerable up to 95% decline in turnover in some betting shops across the country.
In comparison, retail betting shops in England were given permission to resume operations on June 15th, without such restrictions in place. They were only obliged to be in line with some social distancing and sanitising measures. After a campaign held by the Betting and Gaming Council (BGC), the local Government decided to lift the restrictions imposed on Scottish betting shops as of July 22nd.
Now, the legislators had a sudden change of heart and as a result, gaming machines in the country must remain inoperable following concerns they could facilitate the further spread of the coronavirus infection.
Betting Shops Not Included in Scottish Government’s Business Rates Relief Scheme
A Scottish Government official informed Michael Dugher, CEO of the BGC that the Government had decided to keep gaming machines switched off in order to keep people safe. Under the decision of local lawmakers, the existing restrictions would remain in place for the time being.
The boss of the biggest independent betting shop chain on the territory of Scotland, Scotbet, commented on the Government’s decision, saying that local betting shops are facing certain financial difficulties to operate without the benefit of the gaming machines.
The Scottish Government has been under increased criticism for excluding betting outlets from a scheme providing companies with 100% business rate relief for a year as part of the authorities’ efforts to help local businesses deal with the negative impact that the coronavirus lockdown had on them. Betting shops in Scotland are already suffering significant financial difficulties because of the Government’s refusal to include them in the scheme that is available to other retail businesses in the country.
Scottish Government was warned that hundreds of jobs in the gambling industry may be at risk unless retail betting shops are given business rates relief. Unlike in England, betting shops have been excluded from the business rates relief scheme of the Government that would have helped them cope with the losses generated during the coronavirus pandemic.