Amid new measures that could lead to potential casino shutdowns, the Betting and Gaming Council has stepped in to counterweigh the government and outline an alternative. Casinos have agreed to suspend alcohol sale on their floor and data suggests that they can operate safely during the pandemic, says BGC chief executive.
As New Casino Restrictions Loom, BGC Calls for Decisions Based on Facts
Casinos have been among the most heavily impacted businesses in the United Kingdom during the government’s five-month shutdown which started in March and finished in August when casinos were finally allowed to reopen.
Since that time, though, everything has been slowly going downhill with uncertainty looming over the industry. The UK government has hinted at new restrictions which could, once again, shutter operations on the casino floor.
In response to the proposed measures, the Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) warned British Prime Minister Boris Johnson to not act rashly, but think through the decision and its implications for the economy.
The BGC has maintained its position that casinos may stay open and be one of the safest businesses to operate despite the rate of infection. Mr. Johnson has outlined a plan which includes a three-tier system of local lockdowns that would be enacted based on the rate of infections in specific areas.
In a letter addressed to MPs, BGC chief executive Michael Dugher said that enforcing shutdowns would be catastrophic and plunge the industry in irreparable depression, culling thousands of job losses in the process.
“There are relatively few casinos, we know that their impact on Covid is negligible and they have in fact operated perfectly safely since re-opening in August. There are no public health grounds to order their closure now.”
Mr. Dugher is perfectly aware of the pandemic and the toll it has had on ordinary lives, but his opinion is grounded in what he considers facts. The letter specifically outlined that there were “no public health grounds” to shutter casinos as properties were able to operate safely.
He reminded MPs about the many improvements that had been carried in most casinos in the United Kingdom, many of which were a direct response to the pandemic. Measures that included trace systems, Perspex screens, the installation of sanitization stations, strict social distancing protocols, face coverings, and more, all of which have cost operators a dear penny.
The casino industry already contributes £300 million a year in tax and it employs 14,000 people across 125 properties in the United Kingdom.
Casinos Protest Curfew and Offer to Ban Alcohol
The BGC has been adamant in the matter of casino closures. Mr. Dugher and his colleagues have outlined a disastrous outlook following an already rough spell in the first half of the year. Another restrictive measure is the 10 p.m. curfew which has already bit into casino revenue, with results down 70% year-over-year.
Most casinos in the United Kingdom welcome their customers late in the evening. Casinos have agreed to stop serving alcohol, and therefore not be considered the same type of venue as watering holes.
Casinos aren’t pseudo-nightclubs, Mr. Dugher explained, and he pointed out that operators were willing to discontinue beverage service and eliminate another risk factor. He called for ministers to be reasonable and allow casinos to remain open while upholding health and safety standards.
The BGC has been at loggerheads with the government a lot recently, but in each case, Mr. Dugher has been able to articulate his case reasonably.
The Job Support Scheme Gets a Boost
Mr. Johnson and his advisors – who are staunch critics of the casino industry in general – are not planning to let businesses to fend for themselves this time. Instead, Rishi Sunak, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, has made a statement that businesses affected by the discussed shutdowns would receive wider support by the government.
According to Sunak, employees who work in firms required to shut down will be offered government support equal to two-thirds of their wagers from the government, but up to a maximum of £2,100 monthly.
The expansion of the Job Support Scheme, Mr. Sunak clarified, would create a safety net for businesses in the UK so that they can cope with a potential shutdown. The BGC has also responded to the statement by Mr. Sunak arguing that the shutdown of casinos in the country is “entirely avoidable.”
All that the government needs to do, a spokesperson said, was for lawmakers to recognize hard data. The mayors of Greater Manchester and North Tyne, Jamie Driscoll, and Dan Jarvis welcomed Mr. Sunak’s statement but said that more measures may be necessary to alleviate hardships, reduce job losses and avoid business failure in the winter.