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Gambling industry gives cautious welcome to rescue package having called for aid

All MPs from the House of Parliament should be invited to 'National Racehorse Day'
The government has been asked to provide emergency help to the gambling industry

Gambling industry body the Betting and Gaming Council has given a cautious welcome to the "unprecedented" financial package to support the economy announced by the government on Tuesday evening, but is seeking more clarity on the measures.

Earlier in the day the BGC had urged the government to provide emergency help to save thousands of jobs across the gambling industry, which has been left reeling by the effects of the coronavirus outbreak.

It called for assistance with employment costs as a priority and has also asked for business rates relief and additional time to pay duties and corporation tax.

The news that British racing is to be suspended from Wednesday until the end of April will come as another hammer blow to bookmakers who have already had millions of pounds wiped from their share values in recent days.

Major operators Flutter Entertainment and GVC Holdings – the parent companies of Paddy Power Betfair and Ladbrokes Coral respectively – along with William Hill revealed this week that the suspension of sports events would reduce their earnings by more than £100 million apiece.

They also warned that cancellation of horseracing, along with betting shop closures, would further reduce earnings by tens of millions of pounds per month.

Share price falls continued on Tuesday, with William Hill plunging nearly 26.5 per cent at 48.49p by the close of trading and GVC shares down more than 12 per cent at 325p. Shares in Flutter Entertainment enjoyed a modest rise in the morning and ended the day down just 8p at 5,702p.

The BGC said there was "unprecedented financial pressure on employers" as a result of the Covid-19 outbreak.

It highlighted examples of support for business introduced by the governments of Spain, France and Denmark, moves which were mirrored by the UK government on Tuesday evening when chancellor Rishi Sunak announced government loans worth £330 billion.

Betting and Gaming Council chief executive Michael Dugher
Betting and Gaming Council chief executive Michael Dugher
BGC chief executive Michael Dugher said: "We welcome the chancellor’s package of support for businesses in the leisure and hospitality industry, which helps address some of our concerns, but we will study the details and will be seeking urgent clarity on the measures.

"We are, however, disappointed that there is no direct support for employment costs and remain concerned about the devastating impact on our members and their colleagues. We will continue to work with the DCMS and HMT to ensure the financial viability of our members."

Earlier in the day Dugher had said: "Like all other parts of the hospitality, leisure and entertainment industries, the immediate priority for the future of our members in the casino, bingo and betting industry is the ability to pay staff.

"We urgently need temporary government support to help cover payroll costs, relief and time to pay duties and taxes, as well as access to finance. The Treasury, in particular, needs to step up and understand that insurance simply doesn’t cover the impact of a pandemic."

Dugher said the BGC was speaking to government to ensure it was aware of the crisis facing the sector.

He added: "This is a national emergency. The government’s public health response has to be matched in scale by emergency help for businesses and employees. The Treasury cannot let people in hospitality, leisure and entertainment hang out to dry."

In the Republic of Ireland, GVC announced it would be following BoyleSports and Paddy Power by closing its Ladbrokes betting shops for an initial period running to March 29.

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Bill BarberIndustry editor
Published on 17 March 2020Last updated 19:51, 17 March 2020