Scottish government warned betting shop jobs are in jeopardy without support
Hundreds of betting shop jobs in the independent sector remain at risk unless the Scottish government grants bookmakers business rates relief, first minister Nicola Sturgeon has been warned.
Unlike their counterparts in England, the Scottish government has excluded betting shops from its business rates relief scheme, set up to help firms hit by the economic effects of the Covid-19 outbreak.
And while the Scottish government's retail, hospitality and leisure support grant has been offered to others in the betting and gaming industry, including amusements, bingo halls, entertainment centres and racecourses, Scotland's 900 betting shops have not been included.
John Heaton, the chairman of Scotbet which has 30 shops across Scotland, said the decision not to grant business rates relief would cost his business around £400,000 at a time when takings are already down as a result of the pandemic.
He said: "We feel very frustrated that we haven't had the financial support independent bookmakers in England and others in the betting and gaming sector here in Scotland have received.
"The sums involved are not material to the large bookmakers but for us it is about survival. The likely impact is that the independent sector will die and the big bookmakers carry on regardless, grateful that their independent competitors have been removed for them."
Scotland's betting shops were able to reopen on June 29 but were initially told they would not be allowed to have chairs, gaming machines or show live racing to stop people gathering indoors.
However, following pressure from the Betting and Gaming Council, those restrictions will be lifted from Wednesday.
BGC chief executive Michael Dugher said: "We were delighted when the Scottish government listened to us lifting the restrictions, which had led to a fall in turnover of up to 95 per cent compared to pre-lockdown in some shops. We are now calling on them to apply the business rates relief and grant support that others in our industry have received to betting shops.
"These businesses employ thousands of men and women across Scotland, and they deserve their government’s full support now that they are back at work. If they don’t get it, many will sadly lose their jobs as their shops are forced to close.
"The Scottish government needs to pull out all the stops to prevent that from happening and ensure betting shops can play their part in getting the economy back on its feet."
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