April 12 is the scheduled reopening date of betting shops in England, with adult gaming facilities, bingo halls and casinos expected to follow on May 17.
While not directly confirmed during Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s announcement yesterday evening, the Government’s second step in its roadmap involves the reopening of the non-essential retail sector along with indoor hospitality and hotels on May 17.
At Johnson’s address, the PM noted that all steps of reopening would depend on data on the spread of the virus and noted that there would be at least five weeks between each step. Given this, it is important to note that each step on the reopening roadmap is dependent on review, making delays a possibility.
In light of this, the Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) has pressed the government for a level playing field as it prepared the country’s roadmap out of lockdown, stressing that betting shops and casinos must be allowed to reopen at the same date as other businesses in the sector.
The BGC pointed out its members, who employ 44,000 people in betting shops and casinos across the UK, are ready to support economic recovery and must be given the same opportunities to reopen as other parts of the economy.
Michael Dugher, the Betting and Gaming Council’s chief executive has stated that as the vaccine rollout continues and the country begins to emerge from lockdown, it is important that businesses are able to plan effectively for reopening. He further added that ministers must be clear from the outset what the next few months will look like and there should be a consistent approach across the sectors.
Dugher explained that betting shops must be allowed to reopen alongside other non-essential retail. He further went on to detail his statement by pointing out that most betting shops were able to open as they’ve shown that they have best-in-class anti-COVID measures compared to any other part of the high street to protect customers and staff. Dugher also added that it is vital that ministers allow them to play their part in stimulating the high street, along with other non-essential retailers.
Aside from betting shops, Dugher also explained that casinos are eager to help Britain get back on its feet. Dugher pointed out that the night-time economy has taken a hammering during the pandemic and draconian restrictions, including the 10 pm curfew, have made a difficult situation more desperate for many businesses. With this, Dugher stressed that ministers must allow casinos to reopen at the same time as other hospitality businesses including pubs and they must scrap the curfew as It didn’t work last summer and it won’t work now.
Given the nature of the virus, Dugher has stressed that there will be no let-up in the industry’s commitment to safety, but it needs the economy to open up again so that it can participate in reviving the country’s tax take and fund vital public services like the NHS. Dugher also pointed out that the thousands of people employed in betting shops and casinos deserve nothing less than a level playing field so that everyone gets the same opportunities to recover.
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer supported the out of lockdown plan but emphasized the need for certainty about the future of the government’s furlough scheme for both businesses and employees.
PM Johnson also stated that, during phase 4, they would explore the possible role of COVID status certification, which could be referred to as vaccine passports in allowing indoor venues to reopen safely.
Chiming in on this, Debbie Husband, the national director of operations for Grosvenor UK, stated that it is absolutely vital that casinos remain hitched to the wider hospitality sector and also urged the need to scrap curfew mandates to facilitate and support the UK economy’s post-COVID efforts
Commenting on the BGC’s official website, Husband added that it is currently far more critical for the country to scrap the curfew. She detailed this statement by bringing up the images of jam-packed tube stations and heaving High Streets at 11 pm when the curfew kicked in, ultimately stating that she is yet to see or hear of any credible evidence which suggested that curfew worked.
She further went on to say that as far as she knows, the curfew has crippled the casino sector. She pointed out that over half of the industry’s revenues are generated after 10 pm and the hour before midnight is typically the busiest of any 24-hour trading period. She pointed out that this fact is obvious and that customers have come to enjoy casino offerings in a safe, well-ventilated, regulated environment.
Husband also stressed that nothing matters more to her than to see the back of a virus that has done so much damage to families, but also pointed out that she has a duty to her colleagues and to the casino’s customers to fight their corner and to stand up for COVID-secure casinos.
Husband concluded her piece by saying that she continues to hope that the government will recognise what the industry is requesting, what they are offering to do, the tremendous contribution that they make to employment and tax receipts, and to ensure that casinos can safely and securely play our part in the recovery of their towns and cities sooner rather than later.