Bookmakers slam Scottish government over gaming machine u-turn
Gaming machines in Scottish betting shops will remain turned off following an apparent u-turn by the Scottish government.
It is the latest blow to high street bookmakers in Scotland, who have had more restrictions placed upon them than their counterparts elsewhere in Britain.
Scotland's betting shops re-opened on June 29, a fortnight after England, but even then they were banned from having chairs for customers to sit on, from showing live racing and from switching on their gaming machines.
The Scottish government last week said it would remove those restrictions from July 22 but, in a letter to Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) chief executive Michael Dugher, a Scottish government official said: "The decision has been taken that we want to have a consistent approach regarding the use of gaming machines while always keeping people safe. Therefore the existing restrictions remain in place at present."
The news comes with the BGC also calling on the Scottish government to extend business rates relief to betting shops, a benefit enjoyed by bookmakers in England.
John Heaton, chairman of independent bookmaker Scotbet, said they were now operating under "the worst of all worlds".
He added: "They seem determined to put as many betting shops out of business as they can, and it’s independent shops like ours that will suffer the most."
Reacting to the news, BGC chairman Brigid Simmonds said: "We are extremely disappointed by the Scottish government’s decision, which directly contradicts what they told us previously.
"Betting shops in Scotland are already under severe financial strain because of the Scottish government’s refusal to give them 100 per cent business rate relief which is available to other retail businesses, and this is another massive blow.
"I would urge ministers in Scotland to urgently reconsider this baffling decision and revert to the position they had less than a week ago."
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