London Casino Venues Offer To Close Bars At 10 PM To Avoid Curfew
London casinos have offered a compromise to close their bars at 10 PM to avoid having to completely close as part of the upcoming curfew to slow the spread of coronavirus.
The UK Government is set to announce a curfew on pubs, bars, and potentially casinos, forcing them to close at 10 PM, the Evening Standard reports. The curfew is expected to be announced today by Boris Johnson along with other restrictions including a ban from people ordering at the bar.
Ahead of the announcement, a dozen casinos have written to London Mayor Sadiq Khan, offering to close their bars at 10 PM in order to avoid having to completely close their venues and prevent further job losses. As reported by FocusGN, a total of 26 London-based casinos have written to Khan including executives from Caesars Casinos, the Clermont Club, Grosvenor Casinos, and The Hippodrome.
In the letter, the executives state that their casino venues do up to 70% of their trade after 10 PM and explained that a curfew would have a “catastrophic” impact on their business. In a compromise, the casinos have offered to shut their bars to prevent customers from congregating.
The letter reads: “If London is subjected to a 10 PM curfew, most of our casinos will be unviable and some will inevitably close with the loss of hundreds, if not thousands, of jobs in the capital as the furlough scheme nears its end.
“By all means address the core issue of drinking rather than slamming a blanket curfew on our venues which would do nothing to suppress the spread of the virus but which would simply sound the death knell for jobs and for famous London casinos.”
It continues: “Closing our bars rather than our entire casinos would have a more limited impact on our revenues, would protect jobs, preserve the future of casinos and would retain tax receipts for the Treasury.”
The appeal comes after UK casinos underwent a prolonged COVID-19 lockdown for five months and only opened in August, weeks after most of the rest of the United Kingdom had already reopened. As an aftereffect, many casino brands announced that they would be closing shops and cutting jobs across the Uited Kingdom.
Betting and Gaming Council’s Response
The curfew, although not officially announced yet, has already recieved criticism from members of the casino industry. Michael Dugher, the Chief Executive of the Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) has criticised the curfew and has praised the appeal from London casinos to Sadiq Khan.
In a statement, Dugher said: “It is no exaggeration to say that a blanket 10 PM curfew would be devastating for a sector which does more than half of its business after that time and which is still struggling to get back on its feet following the first lockdown and the collapse of tourism.
“The 10 PM curfew just risks encouraging young people to mix in households where there is no track and trace and spreading the virus further and faster. But if the London Mayor and government want toclose pubs and restaurants at 10 PM, we can do that in the casinos too while continuing to provide a best-in-class Covid-secure environment. This might be a sensible compromise.”
He added: “The alternative is the prospect of thousands of job losses – both in London and across the UK – and the permanent closure of some of the capital’s most iconic casinos that can help power our much-needed economic recovery.”
Earleir this week, the Betting and Gaming Council and Genting UK executive Paul Milcock described the curfew as “catastrophic” and said in a blog post on the BGC website that the move would “devastate” the casino industry. In a letter, Dugher and Wilcock criticised the move and suggested that the typical casino visitor is aged 48, well above the age the government is trying to target with the curfew.
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. 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.”
Dugher added: “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 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 reopening in August, casinos have been able to protect customers and staff through providing best-in-class safety measures, including sophisticated track and trace systems. 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.”
The news comes days after The Guardian claimed that Downing Street is taking control of the new gambling reform with Prime Minister Boris Johnson and close advisors Dominic Cummings and Munira Mirza all having a “personal interest” in reforming the current gambling legislation and is looking at implementing new restrictions and rolling back legislation.
What’s more, House of Lords group Peers for Gambling Reform has called for a complete overhaul of the gambling industry and has laid out a series of new recommendations the group hopes the UK Gambling Commission and the rest of the gambling industry will implement.
Some of the recommendations, which have been praised by the BGC, include more effective affordability checks, more advanced testing on games, limits on maximum stakes and the speed of slots, a ban on direct marketing, the implementation of a new gambling ombudsman, new regulation for gambling loot boxes, and plenty more.