In a bid to stay afloat due to recent and incoming restrictions, the United Kingdom’s brick and mortar casinos have offered to stop selling alcohol to avoid forced closures amid the rise of COVID-19 cases across the UK.
The UK’s Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) has released a statement regarding the matter. It has once again called out for the government’s support in these trying times. The BGC pointed out the fact that casinos, which employ 14,000 people and pay millions worth of taxes to the Treasury, are facing another catastrophic dilemma as a new round of COVID restrictions are going to be introduced by the government.
The BGC has noted that PM Boris Johnson is expected to announce new local lockdown measures next week. These measures would include a new three-tier local lockdown system which could see businesses, primarily those in the hospitality and gaming sector, closing down for weeks in a bid to curb infection rates. This comes after Nicola Sturgeon’s announced closure of Scotland’s hospitality and gaming venues.
In light of Scotland’s forced closures, the BGC’s casino members in England and Wales noted that a similar move would be catastrophic for the sector which is still suffering from the initial lockdown’s effects. The BGC also made it clear that brick and mortar casinos were only allowed to reopen in August despite having been backed by the Public Health England and the Department for Health and Social Care for their best in class anti-COVID measures. The BGC also pointed out that in addition to the U-turn filled reopening date, casinos were hit by the 10 pm curfew last month, leading to a 70% drop in revenue year over year.
In a last-ditch bid to avoid closure, the sector has informed the BGC that it is prepared to cease alcohol sales altogether to ensure that they will not be included in the list of the businesses forced to cease operations.
The Betting and Gaming Council’s chief executive officer, Michael Dugher, has written to every MP urging them to lobby the government to allow casinos to stay open. In his letter, Dugher has written that casinos have already proven that they are COVID-secure according to Public Health England and this is because of their world-class track and trace systems, the use of Perspex screens, hand sanitisers and strict social distancing rules. He further explained that there are a relatively few casinos around and that, it is public knowledge that their impact on COVID is negligible and that they have operated perfectly safely since re-opening in August.
Dugher further insisted that there are no public health grounds to order casino closures now and that ministers need to understand that casinos are not pseudo-nightclubs or places where young people go to drink. He further went to point out that despite their standing, casinos are willing to reduce their risk levels by refusing the sale of alcohol, which the government seems to think is another factor in the spread of the virus. Finally, Dugher urges ministers to be reasonable and allow casinos to remain safely open and continue to play their part in raising desperately-needed tax revenues for the Treasury while also stopping the spread of the coronavirus