The Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) has recently expressed its disappointment and utter dismay after the UK Government’s recent decision regarding venue reopenings.
On Friday, July 31 the UK’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson, made a last-minute u-turn announcement stating that instead of August 1, the reopening of higher risk settings such as casinos will be postponed by at least two weeks, making August 15 the reopening date. This recent announcement will not only affect casinos but also other businesses and establishments such as bowling alleys, skating rinks, wedding receptions, and other venues deemed high risk.
This recent u-turn is due to the worrying rise of COVID-19 infection rates in July. The government has reasoned that this decision along with a raft of other restrictions on social gatherings was imposed in order to avoid imposing another full national lockdown.
In response to this, the BGC has written a letter to Chancellor Rishi Sunak MP, stating that this decision is highly illogical, inconsistent, and deeply damaging to businesses and to their employees. The BGC’s Chief Executive Officer Michael Dugher also wrote that the UK government’s strategy appears to be in disarray as its strategy has greatly diverged from the original plan. The government’s strategy was to move from a nationwide lockdown to a regional and local lockdown yet with its recent announcement, it forces all casinos to remain closed.
In the recent announcement, Prime Minister Johnson asserted that businesses like casinos are at a higher risk. The BGC has deemed this charge as bizarre and challenged it. The BGC pointed out that the land-based casino sector has been working diligently with the Department for Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport and Public Health England in order to ensure that they are ready for a safe reopening.
Before this announcement, many land-based casinos, including the BGC, lauded the previous August 1 2020 reopening date as this was timely given that ever since June 2020, many establishments have already made the necessary policy and operating adjustments in order to keep operating premises COVID-safe, all in accordance with safety standards and policies provided by the government.
In addition to this, many have invested heavily not only in countermeasures but also in game and floor designs in order to keep players safe. These measures include investing in sanitation equipment, barrier screens, strict social distancing floor measures, changes in game arrangements and sanitation procedures, and sophisticated track and trace systems. Dugher also emphasised that casino operators had already spent millions of pounds in reopening preparations which includes recalling staff off furlough, training, and food and beverage supplies. Dugher warns that significant redundancies are now a very real possibility as operators struggle with the huge financial costs of remaining closed.
As it stands, UK casinos have remained closed for nearly 5 months. Casino closures mean that over 12,000 people and their jobs are at risk. This heavily affects the economy as the Treasury will still be spending on salary subsidies while missing out on big contributions and tax revenues as land-based casinos contribute tax payments amounting to £5.7m each week.