Friday, 14 August 2020

Casinos To Reopen August 15th But BGC Warns Of Tough Times Ahead

Gambling Addiction

Casinos in England are set to open on August 15th but the Betting and Gaming Council has warned that there are still tough times ahead for the gambling industry.

Brick-and-mortar casino venues were set to open on August 1st but the British Government delayed the venue reopenings for two weeks to August 15th after a rise in the number of coronavirus cases in the UK. Now, casinos are set to open this weekend following the easing of lockdown restrictions. Bowling alleys, music and theatre venues, play centres, and skating rinks will also be reopening, all of which must implement strict social distancing measures.

Alongside the reopening of the aforementioned businesses, wedding receptions of more than 30 guests will be permitted. According to the Institute Of Licensing, the UK Government announced that anyone refusing to wear face masks can be fined a maximum of £3,200.

In a new blog post, the Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) praised the reopening of casinos, describing it as a “welcome relief” for the 12,000 employees working within the gambling sector. However, it’s warned that there are still difficult times ahead for the industry.

Michael Dugher, the Chief Executive of the BGC, said: “This belated good news will come as a welcome relief to the 12,000 people employed in the casino sector in England. We regret that it has taken so long for staff to return to work – long after all manner of venues and activities, that don’t have anything like the anti-COVID measures you will see in any casino, we reopened.

“GIven casinos had been cleared by Public Health England as safe to reopen and given we had the strong support of DCMS, who have been steadfast throughout, it was lamentable that our safe business had to suffer considerable hurt and expense with a further pointless two-week delay.”

He continued: “Casinos are not yet out of the woods though. The last five months has left many casinos on the brink and the next few months will be particularly crucial to their recovery as the tourism, leisure, and hospitality sector slowly gets back on its feet.

“This sector can play an important part in our national economic recovery and I hope ministers will continue to work closely with the industry to provide support through this difficult period. In return, casinos will continue to play their part in helping to revive our city centres and nighttime economy, as well as supporting the country through the £1 billion economic contribution it makes in direct and indirect Gross Value Added.”

As the UK Government flip-flopped on its decision to reopen casino venues in England, the BGC aggressively called on Scotland and Wales to open their casino venues. Although Wales hasn’t yet given casinos the green light, Scotland has announced that casinos can reopen from August 24th.

Speaking about the Scottish Government’s planned reopening, Dugher said: “We hope that the Scottish Government will be true to its stated commitment about helping businesses, and allow casinos in Scotland to reopen as scheduled on 24th August. Casinos have invested heavily in new COVID safeguards. There can be no justification for further delaying their opening. We continue to urge the Welsh Government to fully engage with the sector and seek the reassurances we can provide to bring about the safe reopening of casinos in Wales.”

Extended The Furlough Scheme For Casinos

The news comes just days after the BGC urged the UK Government to extend its furlough scheme for casino employees following the postponement of casino reopenings, a decision which cost the industry over £14 million, as reported by SBC News. According to the BGC, around 6,000 jobs will be cut within the industry due to the reopening delay and the company says the number will only grow if the Government’s support schemes are withdrawn and casinos forced to remain closed.

Dughet said in a statement: “World famous and iconic venues like the Hippodrome and Les Ambassadeurs are not just part of our proud past, they want to be part of economic revival in the future. They are not looking for a hand out – they are looking to help out. By reopening safely so they can play their part in contributing to getting the economy moving again and to contributing vital tax revenues to the Exchequer.”

He continued: “Some of Britain’s most iconic casinos, who attract high-spending visitors from around the world, are sitting idle whilst pubs and restaurants around the corner are open and doing a roaring trade. The Government must step in to save these businesses before it’s too late.

“As a first step, they should extend the full furlough scheme to help offset the £14 million casinos are expected to lose as a result of the two-week delay and compensate casinos for the wasted costs of the late change of decision on their reopening.

“Casino operators have done everything asked of them by Public Health England. They have gone to extraordinary lengths and cost to ensure their venues are COVID secure. They were rightly given the green light to reopen by public health officials who recognised the significant investment operators had made and the negligible risk they posed.”

Due to the prolonged lockdown on casino venues and gambling shops, many big-name brands have revealed that they will be closing several venues and cutting jobs across the United Kingdom. The brands include Buzz Bingo, Genting Casino, Grosvenor Casino, and William Hill.

Reports claim that casinos spend around £6 million in preparation for their reopening on August 1st. Casino venues spent the funds on installing perspex screens, track and trace systems, strict social distancing measures, sanitisation equipment, as well as more frequent deep cleaning of table games, casino chips, machines, and more.

It’s not just the UK that is suffering as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, however, as the number of people visiting Las Vegas in June this year has fallen by around 70%, although Vegas casinos have reopened. As we reported, the overall visitor volume to Vegas for the first six months of 2020 has fallen by 54% despite Vegas casinos’ efforts to draw in customers with discounted hotel rooms and other promotions.