London’s casinos have shut down once again as the city’s COVID-19 restriction level has been raised to Tier 3 following a rise of coronavirus cases.
London’s casinos had only recently reopened after a month-long circuit breaker lockdown that ended on December 2. They had previously been working under an 11 pm curfew, having reopened in August following the country’s original March lockdown.
But while the industry has railed against the alleged injustices of lockdown restrictions, there were few expressions of protest when the announcement was made on 14 December. It seemed that the circuit breaker had no impact on the virus’ T-rate. Cases are soaring in London and the southeast, where a recent genetic strain of the coronavirus has been identified by health officials.
UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock said on Monday that the mutated strain is not believed to be more dangerous than prior strains and that it is extremely unlikely to be vaccine-resistant. Despite this, he noted that the virus appears to be spreading faster and could be responsible for the region’s increase in infection numbers.
Hancock also revealed that London will be elevated to COVID-19 restriction Tier 3, the highest level of restrictions from 16 December onwards. This prohibits indoor mixing of different households and suggests that bars, hotels, and entertainment venues such as casinos and bingo halls must cease operations. The elevated restriction level also affects London’s football fans as they will no longer be permitted from attending matches. Football fans were only allowed to attend matches on 2 December for the first time since March.
Despite the news, betting shops are permitted to operate despite Tier 3 restrictions provided that they follow the health protocols and operating guidelines which include limits on customers in a particular shop at a particular time, the removal of seating fixtures and a ban on live sporting streams. The restrictions placed on betting shops are on top of the stringent anti-Covid measures in place which include the installation hand sanitisers, perspex screens, track and trace systems and strict social distancing.
The whole of Greater London, the south and west of Essex, including Braintree, Chelmsford and Harlow, and the affected areas in the south of Hertfordshire must enforce the elevated restrictions.
This year has been a very difficult year for the UK’s in-land casino industry. The Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) said in October that relative to the same period in 2019, lockdowns and curfews had left the land-based gaming market down 70 per cent.
Genting, one of the largest casino operators in the UK, said in July that it planned to lay off more than 1,600 staff and permanently shut down its properties in Margate, Torquay, and Bristol after fighting losses incurred by the UK’s first national lockdown.
At the same time, because of the financial burdens of the coronavirus, Caesars Entertainment UK announced that its Rendezvous Casino Southend will also close permanently.
Similarly, the USA casino industry is struggling with the pandemic with Pennsylvania land-based casinos shutting down due to the surge of COVID-19 cases