Gaming facilities in England are making desperate attempts to convince the Government they can operate safely even under Tier 3 restrictions. Currently, casinos and betting shops are closed due to the national lockdown imposed November 5 which will run at least until December 2, but even when the lockdown is lifted, gaming venues fall in a category of businesses which should remain closed in areas designated with Tier 3 virus transmission risk.
BGC CEO Calls for Consideration
Using the voice of the industry, the Betting and Gaming Council (BGC), casinos and betting shops proposed to further restrict their operations if they are allowed to remain open under Tier 3. In separate letters sent by BGC CEO Michael Dugher to Cabinet ministers Michael Gove and Matt Hancock, the gaming industry body outlined the will of its members to go beyond the restrictions implemented so far to ensure they can operate safely.
Casinos and betting shops introduced a number of measures to ensure safe operations after the re-opening in the summer, and, despite the lack of direct evidence that gaming facilities contributed to the spread of the virus, operators are desperate to be allowed to remain open and ready to prove they are safe.
“…in order to give further reassurance to you and the public that opening these businesses in Tier 3 is possible, our members have offered to introduce further restrictions on for example customer numbers, facilities and products available.”Michael Dugher, CEO, BGC
Casinos offer to stop live gaming at table games such as roulette, blackjack and poker, limit the number of people inside the facilities to 25% of their capacity, and stop selling alcohol if they are allowed to continue to operate beyond the 10pm curfew as during that time of the day they do around 70% of their business.
Betting shops felt unfairly treated as being the only part of non-essential retail business to be ordered to close, but they are willing to limit the time span of customers inside the shops, along with a cap on the number of people in the premises at any given moment. Further, betting shops offer to close all of their vending and hot drink facilities.
“I would be extremely grateful if you could give serious consideration to these measures which are proactively offered up by our members to provide further reassurance that they are safe to re-open in Tier 3 areas.”Michael Dugher, CEO, BGC
Gaming Industry Adversely Affected
The desperate attempt to persuade the Government comes at the background of the severe virus impact on the gaming industry, resulting into 6 casinos being closed for good, as well as one casino operator implementing workforce cuts of more than 40%.
“The impacts of the pandemic are already being felt by the casino sector… Casino businesses had strong balance sheets at the start of the year, the same is no longer the case with costs during closure amounting to up to £15 million per month for some operators.”Michael Dugher, CEO, BGC
Casinos and high street betting shops provide jobs for 54,000 people and pay £1.5 billion annually to the Exchequer. Casinos alone generate £120 million a year in tourism spend, while betting shops contribute £280 million annually in terms of media and levy payments to the horse racing industry.