As arcades remain closed – seemingly indefinitely – throughout Wales, yet another AGC operator has been told by their local authority to repay £25,000 of emergency grant money.
Another week, and yet another Welsh AGC has been asked, incredibly so say key tourist industry figures, by its local council to repay a Covid-19 business support grant that it was given by the Welsh Government.
Andrew Deakin of Jackpot Amusements in Aberystwyth is merely the latest in a growing line of victims to the Welsh Government’s flip-flopping on whether arcades qualified for pandemic relief funding: despite practically every other high street business having been deemed eligible.
Cardiff had allocated £1.2bn in emergency cash to bail out its retail businesses throughout the lockdown period, to be dispensed in either a £25,000 or £10,000 package depending on the rateable value of the business in question.
Deakin received the larger grant with sign-off from the Welsh Government – authorisation which has now been back-tracked (and contradicted) by the local authority, Ceredigion County Council.
In an article detailing Deakin’s plight, BusinessLive claimed that the scenario involving Jackpot Amusements was “believed to be the first in Wales where a business has received emergency coronavirus funding, only for the backing to then be pulled.”
We at Coinslot know differently however, having already written no less than three other stories wherein a similar Welsh gaming and/or leisure establishment has been retroactively asked to payback their Covid-disruption grant money.
The terms of the Welsh Government’s pandemic support funding exempt gambling, pornography, munitions and tobacco businesses from any prospect of Covid-related grant relief. But it seems to have fallen on local councils to decide whether or not AGCs fall under the “gambling” or “leisure” category – resulting in a situation which Bacta chief John White has called “an unacceptable post-code lottery across Wales,” which he said had only been “exacerbated [by] the Welsh Government refusing to provide clear guidance as in the other UK nations.”
“We’ve been working with governments across the UK to ensure that the seaside and high street arcade businesses are able to re-open safely and bring vitality back to our towns,” he added. “The local authorities are making arbitrary decisions without visiting the local businesses.”
Adding insult to injury meanwhile, Deakin’s business (as with all other indoor leisure businesses) remains shuttered – with no hint from Cardiff as to when it might re-open.