BGC warns of energy crisis threat to leisure and hospitality

Soaring energy costs have hit the headlines for the past few months, and the Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) has highlighted the impact these could have on the hospitality sector.

Specifically, the betting and gaming trade association highlighted the difficulties faced by retail bookmakers and casinos, citing ‘news reports’ suggesting that these businesses are facing average increases of 300% under new energy deals. 

Additionally, the BGC also cited the recent full year report from Grosvenor Casino operator Rank Group, which outlined energy costs as being a major burden throughout 2022 and being a key drag to its post-pandemic recovery, having increased from £13m in 2021 to £23m.

“The cost of simply doing business is rising at an exponential rate,” said Michael Dugher, BGC CEO. “If urgent action isn’t taken soon, continued energy price increases could have a catastrophic impact across the hospitality and leisure sector, including hitting our members.

“Casinos are a vital pillar of the hospitality and tourism sector in cities and towns across the UK. Just like the rest of the hospitality sector they are struggling to build back after the global pandemic and now they face a new crisis.”

The UK betting sector is currently at a crossroads with the Gambling Act review White Paper’s publication delayed once again until next month, and like other areas of retail has been facing heavy pressure over the past two years. 

Dugher further noted that ESA Retail research found that 82% of bettors visited once a week, with 89% then visiting other high-street shops, something the BGC believes indicates that betting has a wider positive contribution to the retail economy. 

Collectively, the UK’s 6,500 betting shops and 121 casinos directly employ 44,000, indirectly employ 48,000 and generate £2bn in taxes per week and £4bn annually for the UK economy – but over 200 independent licenced betting operators (LBOs) have closed over the past five years. 

“Meanwhile bookmakers, which play a critical role on the UK’s hard-pressed high streets, face similar challenges,” Dugher continued. 

“In short, any business which welcomes customers into a building must grapple with this energy emergency.”

On the other hand, the delay of the White Paper publication and the costs of living crisis has also been cited by gambling reform advocates as cause for concern.

Referencing YouGov research, treatment provider GamCare noted that people are becoming increasingly worried about their finances, and stated its belief that some may turn to gambling as a potential source of funds.

Additionally, in the aftermath of Boris Johnson’s resignation announcement and the subsequent review delay, GambleAware CEO Zoë Osmond called for greater consideration of the general public’s economic burden.

“As the cost-of-living crisis continues, it is vital that gambling harm is addressed as an urgent public health issue and that the upcoming White Paper will propose a consistent and sustainable funding model to ensure the long-term stability and certainty of necessary prevention and treatment services,” Osmund stated at the time.

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