Bookmakers fear shops will close without rates relief

The Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) has called on Scottish ministers to follow the UK Government.

The Scottish Government has been urged to extend a business rates relief scheme to bookmakers amid fears shops could be forced to close.

Betting shops are eligible for rates relief in England and the Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) is calling on ministers in Scotland to follow.

John Heaton, the boss of Scotbet Рwhich has around 30 stores in Scotland Рsaid it would cost his firm £400,000 at a time when takings are already down because of the coronavirus 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.”

The move comes ahead some restrictions imposed on bookmakers being lifted..

Initially stores were not allowed to have chairs, gaming machines or show live races – with the BGC saying this contributed to a fall in turnover of 95% compared to pre-lockdown in some stores.

BGC chief executive Michael Dugher said he is “delighted” the restrictions are being lifted from Wednesday.

He added the organisation is now calling on ministers to apply the business rates relief.

Mr Dugher said: “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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