On 17.03.2020, the Chancellor of the Exchequer in the United Kingdom ensured the House of Commons that the Government would “do whatever it takes to support our economy through this crisis.” He was speaking, of course, about the outbreak of COVID-19 and its impact on the various industries of Britain.
The Chancellor continued: “I am extending this business rates holiday to all businesses in those sectors, irrespective of their rateable value. That means every single shop, pub, theatre, music venue, and restaurant and any other business in the retail, hospitality or leisure sector, will pay no business rates whatsoever for 12 months.”
This was music to the ears of the gambling industry, which assumed it would be included in the leisure sector category.
Yet this did not prove the case. The Treasury decided to exclude casinos, bingo halls and betting shops from the 100% business rates holiday, classifying them as ‘financial services’ as opposed to leisure.
On Thursday, this prompted the Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) to condemn the decision in an open letter addressed to the Chancellor.
The BGC, which acts as the single industry association for betting and gaming in the UK, described the decision as “frankly bizarre,” given gambling businesses would be listed on the London Stock Exchange as part of the leisure industry.
While these are unprecedented times, it is difficult not to speculate at ulterior motives for this resolution, particularly when the industry generates more than £3bn ($3.91bn) in annual taxation for the Government choosing not to support it.
While the UK Government may not be keen to help the regulated gambling market, a lack of licensed betting shops will only see a rise in the unregulated black market, which as the BGC says is “not only an unsafe place for people to bet, but also contributes nothing to the Exchequer or the country.”