Casinos To Reopen on 1 August After Government U-Turn
The UK government has given the green light for land-based casinos to reopen on 1 August. The government back-down, announced by Boris Johnson, is a huge relief for the industry and could prevent further job losses.
England’s land-based casino owners welcomed the news that they can finally open their doors to customers, four months after closing due to the coronavirus virus. The Betting and Gaming Council, whose members represent 90% of the gambling industry, called the move a major boost for the UK tourism and hospitality sector.
As these changes only apply to England, the BGC has called on the parliaments in Scotland and Wales to “show their hands” and follow suit, allowing the estimated 2,000 people that work in the sector in those countries to return to work.
The BGC CEO, Michael Dugher, praised the role that the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) played in lobbying the Government. It was pressure from DCMS, the BGC and other campaign groups that led to the Government reversing a previous decision not to allow casinos to reopen. Dugher said of the reopening of casinos:
After four long months of lockdown, it’s fantastic to see casinos will reopen safely for business again on 1 August; I am delighted that they can now play their part in supporting the recovery of the tourism and hospitality sector.– Michael Dugher, BGC CEO
The UK government’s decision not to allow casinos to reopen on what was dubbed “independence day” on 1 July annoyed many within the industry. Pubs, restaurants, cafes, hairdressers, art galleries and museums, theme parks, cinemas, community centres, libraries, hotels, campsites, outdoor playgrounds and outdoor gyms, and places of worship were allowed to welcome customers. Bookmakers and bingo halls were also included, but casinos were omitted from the list.
Rank Group’s John O’Reilly said he was “struggling to understand the rationale” of allowing other sectors of the industry to open but not others. He also revealed the company was losing £10m a month while they were prevented from trading. He also detailed the steps that companies had already taken to ensure visitors are safe, saying that many casinos had strict Covid-19 social distancing and health measures in place.
The BGC echoed O’Reilly comments, describing the omission “as an ‘inconsistent and nonsensical’ judgement. The campaign group added that “Casino operators have worked round the clock to ensure their premises, and the way they operate, adhere to the Government’s strict anti-Covid guidelines. They now want to work urgently with ministers on any outstanding issues which will enable them to reopen their doors safely as soon after 4 July as possible.”
The BGC highlighted that the sector employs 14,000 people and contributes £300m a year to the Treasury. They also highlighted the civic response of its members during the pandemic, with some casinos opening their kitchens to help key workers and the vulnerable. They also allowed car parks to be used free of charge to NHS staff and nurses. Casino operator Genting highlights the perilous financial situation of casino operators. Genting announced they had ceased UK land-based casino operations, closing three casinos at the cost of 1,600 jobs.