Thursday, 17 September 2020

BGC Warns UK Casino Curfew Will Put ‘Thousands’ Of Jobs At Risk

Casino Curfew

The Betting and Gaming Council has warned that the proposed 10 PM casino curfews in the UK could put “thousands” of jobs at risk if it is implemented.

As reported by iGamingBusiness, the curfew is currently being considered by the government as part of a move to slow the spread of coronavirus, and the rule would also affect pubs by forcing them and casino venues to close early.

In a letter to Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden, BGC Chief Executive Michael Dugher and Genting UK boss Paul Wilcock warned that the law would “devastate” casinos, most of which complete between 50 and 70% of their trade after 10 PM, and particularly after their recent re-opening following an extended five-month lockdown period.

Although the casino industry has been praised for implementing anti-Covid measures including perspex screens, the inclusion of a track and trace system, and limits on capacity, the UK government seems to believe that more needs to be done.

In the letter, both Dugher and Wilcock explained that an average casino visitor is aged 48 and above the age the UK government is attempting to target with the casino curfew. They also explained that young adults, the age group the government is trying to target, usually don’t gather in casinos after 10 PM.

The letter reads: “To ensure the sector’s survival it is vital that any additional Covid social distancing measures, such as curfews, are not imposed on businesses that have demonstrated that they are Covid-secure and do not cater for the age group targeted by the measure.

“The introduction of a blanket measure such as curfews would certainly result in many thousands of redundancies in a very short timeframe. It is no exaggeration to state that it would devastate the UK land-based casino sector.”

It added: “The conclusion to draw is that the impact of a casino curfew on Covid numbers would be negligible but the impact on our businesses would be catastrophic.”

Later on in the letter, the BGC urged the UK government to extend the furlough scheme which is expected to end next month or introduced a different support service for businesses, particularly since footfall at casino venues is currently between 5 to 60% of its pre-Covid levels.

Dugher explained: “We support the need to act swiftly to protect public health, and thank the Government for the support they have given the UK’s casinos so far. However, a blanket 10 PM curfew on businesses would be catastrophic and force casinos to close once again – this time for good.

“It would certainly result in many thousands of redundancies, while having a negligible impact on the spread of Covid. Since re-opening in August, casinos have been able to protect customers and staff through providing best in class safety measures, including sophisticated track and trace systems.”

He added: “Any new social distancing measures should be focused on the areas and age groups of the country at most risk, not just arbitrarily applied across the board.”

Dugher’s comments and his open letter come after the BGC spent months continuously urging the UK Government to reopen casino venues or risk redundancies.

The Effects Of UK’s Covid-19 Lockdown

As previously reported, some casino venues and brands across the UK have already suffered due to COVID-19. In July, Genting Casino revealed that it would be cutting more than 1,600 jobs and closing three of its venues in Bristol, Torquay, and Margate, while venues in Edinburgh, Birmingham, and London will all face job cuts.

What’s more, Buzz Bingo announced that it was closing 26 of its bingo hall across the UK and was planning on cutting hundreds of jobs for similar reasons. William Hill and Grosvenor Casino have also announced job cuts and closures across the UK.

Brigid Simmonds OBE, the Chairman of the Betting and Gaming Council, has praised the re-opening of casino venues and betting shops but warned that the Government must work to protect them and the nation’s high-streets, both of which are at risk.

In a post on the official BGC website, Simmonds explained that there are almost 7,000 betting shops across the UK all of which employ around 40,000 people. Research taken before the pandemic found that 82% of betting shop customers visited one shop once a week and that almost 90% of those customers visited other shops on the high street.

Simmonds then called on the government to provide businesses, both gambling and non-gambling, with more help. The blog post reads: “Our casinos – which employ 14,000 people and paid £1.3bn in tax in the last three years – opened in mid-August, but with no international visitors, trading has been slow.

“Nightclubs and many music venues remain closed. So not only will central government have to think about what help they can still offer, local communities and local government will need to do so too.

For local authorities, it will be reaching out to those in their communities who have the skills and the energy to bring together retailers and operators to make changes to the high-street. Because if nothing happens, many leisure businesses will not survive this autumn and our high-streets will become ghost towns.”

Simmonds ended the post by saying: “When hospitality, leisure, and tourism – including our betting shops and casinos – make such a vital contribution to the UK economy, their needs must be at the forefront of our economic recovery.”

At the time of writing, the UK Government hasn’t yet confirmed a casino curfew but Ministers are currently considering imposing the curfew and requiring pubs to close early. News of the rule has sparked criticism but its thought that it could help slow down the spread of COVID-19 across the United Kingdom.

The news comes after the BGC last month warned of “tough times” ahead. Although the group praised the then-reopening of casinos in England, they warned that the industry was still going to face some tough time, and this upcoming rule change could be one of them.