Thursday, 8 October 2020

BGC Describes New Scottish Restrictions As A ‘Huge Blow’ To Casinos

BGO Scottish Restrictions on Casinos

The Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) has criticised the announcement of new temporary COVID-19 restrictions in Scotland.

Yesterday (October 7th), First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced a series of new temporary COVID-19 measures in a move to slow down the continuing rise of infections just as Scotland recorded more than 1,000 infections in a single day.

The new measures, which the BGC says is a “huge blow” to the casino industry, requires all licensed indoor hospitality venues including casinos and bingo halls to close for two weeks from Friday at 18:00 PM to October 25th.

The restriction will cover people living in the five health board areas of Forth Valley, Lanarkshire, Greater Glasgow and Clyde, as well as Lothian and Ayrshire and Arran, all of which currently have the highest infection rates in the country.

However, pubs and restaurants located outside of said regions will be able to open but can only serve alcohol outdoors. Alongside the new measures, Sturgeon also announced a £40 million support fund for all affected businesses which will run alongside the existing UK Job Retention Scheme.

Speaking about the new restrictions, a spokesperson for the Betting and Gaming Council said: “This news will come as a huge blow to casinos in Scotland, which only opened their doors in August and who have been trying to rebuild their businesses since then.

“However, we welcome the First Minister’s announcement of financial help for the hospitality sector, and call on the Scottish Government to ensure it gets to the businesses that need it most – including casinos – as quickly as possible.”

As reported by iGamingBusiness, the BGC also acknowledged that the UK’s Department for Digital, Culture, Meda and Sport argued that casino venues should be exempt from the new Scottish restrictions after having implemented various measures themselves to protect employees and guests from COVID-19.

The news also comes after England introduced a 10 PM curfew which requires all hospitality venues including casinos and bingo halls to close at 10 PM. Prior to its implementation, the BGC warned of its dangers since most brick-and-mortar casino venues do up to 70% of their trade after 10 PM.

After Prime Minister Boris Johnson officially announced it, BGC Chief Executive Michael Dugher said that Johnson might have “signalled the death knell for the casino industry”, and the BGC urged the UK Government to do more to protect the casino and the rest of the hospitality industry.

Not long after, Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced an extension to the Job Retention Scheme, which the BGC welcomed but stressed that casino venues in the UK would prefer to trade as normal rather than depend on government stipends.

Amid all of this, the UK Gambling Commission have been working together to drive up standards of the gambling industry by introducing new rules to “stamp out” VIP programme malpractice, as well as a partnership with Facebook to help users reduce the number of gambling advertisements they see across the platform.

Meanwhile, leading charity GamCare has called for more awareness of gambling-related financial harm while launching a brand new toolkit that will provide various organisations with informative tools and guidance on how to provide effective and sensitive gambling support to those that need it.

COVID-19 Restrictions Across The UK

The new restrictions announced by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon will see licensed indoor hospitality venues close, as already explained. However, it also includes a series of other changes including allowing cafes without an alcohol license to remain open until 18:00 every day, a suspension on contact sport for people aged over 18, a ban on indoor group exercise activities, and a ban on outdoor live events too.

Scotland’s new restrictions do not include a travel ban, but people within the central belt of the country have been urged to avoid using public transport unless absolutely necessary and have been urged to avoid travelling outside of their health board area.

In a speech announcing the new restrictions, Sturgeon said: “We are not going back into lockdown today. We are not closing schools. We are not halting the remobilisation of the NHS for non-COVID care. And we are not asking people to stay at home.

“The need for action is highlighted by today’s figures and, more fundamentally, in the evidence paper published today. To try to interrupt this trajectory, we must act now. While the measures will feel like a backwards step, they are in the interests of protecting our progress overall. It is by taking the tough but necessary action now that we hope to avoid even tougher action in [the] future.”

Scotland’s new restrictions come amid rumours that the UK Government will be imposing a series of new restrictions across England too. According to reports, the Government may announce new measures which require pubs and restaurants to temporarily shut across the North of England as COVID-19 cases continue to rise across the region. There has been no word on whether this new measure will apply to casinos and bingo halls too.

Although Downing Street and the Department of Health and Social Care have declined to comment on the reports, according to ITV, government ministers are currently in talks regarding the measures, which may be imposed as early as Monday, October 12th.

If implemented, the new measure would come as a further blow to the hospitality industry, which is already struggling under the current 10 PM curfew. However, a group of Tory MPs are attempting to overturn the curfew in an upcoming Commons vote, claiming it’s “counterproductive” and damaging the nation’s struggling economy.