The Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) is urging the UK government to move forward with modernization plans for the casino sector in order to prevent further job losses and business closures in 2024. In an op-ed article for the BGC, David Williams of the Rank Group emphasized the importance of introducing proposed changes that would benefit the sector and ensure its survival. Williams raised concerns about the impending rise in the National Living Wage and the impact of freezing casino duty bands, which are estimated to cost the sector £5 million per year.
Williams, the director of public affairs at Rank, stressed that the industry can only withstand these increased costs if policies outlined in the white paper are implemented first. These policies include changes to gaming machine allocations, allowing casinos to offer sports betting, and expanding electronic payment methods. Williams emphasized the need for modernization in order to drive revenue and absorb costs, stating that “That’s the only sequence of events that works.”
The BGC has accused the UK government of a stealth tax raid on casinos, estimating that the freezing of gaming duty bands could cost the industry £5 million per year. The organization expressed disappointment that the bands were not adjusted to rise with inflation. Michael Dugher, chief executive of the BGC, warned that the “stealth tax” has the potential to slow recovery and weaken future growth in the casino sector.
The BGC highlighted the significant financial contribution of casinos, which generate £300 million annually in taxes and an estimated £800 million in gross value across the entire economy. However, the sector has faced challenges such as the cost-of-living crisis, leading to the closure of four casinos in recent months and a 25% decrease in the number of casino employees in the past four years.
The Gambling Act review white paper, published in April, outlines proposed changes to regulate gambling in the UK. The BGC has largely supported the government’s white paper, particularly in relation to casino reform. The first round of consultations, which was launched in July, received over 3,000 submissions and focused on financial risk, vulnerability, and age verification at land-based venues. The next round of consultations, closing in February or March, will consider topics including opting in for online bonuses. The BGC stressed the importance of these consultations and the need for the government to deliver on its response to the land-based casino consultation and implement legislation in the first half of 2024 to modernize the sector.