John O’Reilly, the chief executive officer of the Rank Group, has written a letter to First Minister Nicola Sturgeon urging her to reconsider gambling venue closures under Scottland’s new lockdown restrictions.
In his letter, O’Reilly expressed his dismay over the Scottish government’s decision to include casinos and gambling houses in its Covid protection level 2 classification. He mentioned that this classification will force both casinos and bingo clubs to close down and because of this, he is urging Nicola Sturgeon to reconsider the classification imminently. He also mentioned that if the classification isn’t reconsidered, the group will be forced to close all its Scottish properties from November 2.
O’Reilly further expressed his opinion on the latest categorisation saying that these are anything but evidence-based and comes in contrast to other indoor businesses such as pubs, bars, cinema, and restaurants who are able to keep their doors open. He also criticised the government for its grossly unfair treatment towards casinos. He mentioned that the group’s casinos and bingo halls have heavily invested in anti-covid measures and as well as stringent policies that ensure player and employee safety above all else.
Mark McCluskey, operations manager at the Maybury Casino, which the Rank Group operates, has also chimed in and expressed his frustrations at the Scottish government’s actions. He initially explained that Maybury has invested upwards of £100,000 in Covid-related measures and is currently operating at a quarter of its capacity to ensure social distancing. He then expressed his frustration by saying that casinos feel that they the most secure covid-environment in the hospitality industry yet they are categorised as such. He further went on to add that he has never experienced a more robust environment in terms of Covid policy and transmission safety, than in a casino.
Furthermore, O’Reilly also highlighted bingo in his letter to Sturgeon. He said that bingo is a part of the fabric of Scottish culture and is a social lifeline. McCluskey also echoed this statement and pointed out that bingo hall closures will not only severely impact the company financially but would also impact the mental health of its customers and staff. McCluskey further went to point out that Maybury serves as a social hub for many of its slightly older demographic, most of whom are its members. Its workforce is comprised of 70 individuals, with reports of mental health issues due to the imposed lockdown. He further went on to say that the club is pretty much all they have socially.
O’Reilly also pointed out that the group has frequently written to Scottish Government officials to inform them of the group’s measures in place. He also went on to say that he understands that the Scottish government has difficult decisions to make and that he has been steadfast in his refusal to criticise government decisions. He also added that if casinos are treated in line with other areas of hospitality, they will be able to protect jobs and safely give Scottish customers something to be cheerful about, and play a full part in Scotland’s economic recovery.
The Rank Group is the UK’s largest multi-channel casino operator. Aside from its many land-based casinos, it also operates many of the UK’s best casino sites.