Thursday, 24 September 2020

UK Casinos Call For More Support From Government After New Curfew Rule

Casino Curfew

UK Casino bosses from all over the United Kingdom have called on Chancellor Rishi Sunak for more support after the implementation of a 10 PM Covid-19 curfew.

The new curfew requires hospitality and leisure venues including UK casinos to shut at 10 PM and the Betting and Gaming Council (BGC), who called the curfew “disappointing”, have urged the Chancellor to provide additional help as most casinos do up to 70% of their trade after the curfew.

With thousands of jobs in the gambling industry having been put at risk due to the curfew, several casino bosses have urged the Chancellor, who will be announcing plans in a statement later today, to reveal a support package to help casinos and other businesses until the pandemic has gone.

According to the Betting and Gaming Council’s website, the casino bosses have urged Sunak to extend the Job Retention Scheme past its October 31st end date, and they have suggested a series of taxpayer-backed initiatives which could be used to keep businesses alive and contributing to the Treasury.

The casinos have also highlighted how senior Public Health England officials agreed that their venues’ anti-Covid measures such as Perspex screens and track-and-trace systems were “excellent”.

Speaking about the casinos’ plea for help, Michael Dugher, the Chief Executive of the GBC, said in a statement: “Casinos have demonstrated that they are Covid-secure, and yet are being ordered to close their doors at 10 PM.

“This is an illogical and disproportionate decision which puts thousands of jobs at risk. The Chancellor must implement an urgent economic package which enables casinos to stay open and protect jobs so that, when the pandemic is over, they can play their part in getting the British economy back on its feet.”

Job Losses And More Support

The news comes after the BGC warned earlier this week that the Covid 10 PM curfew could lead to around 7,000 job losses or around 50% of the gambling industry. In a post responding to the implementation of the curfew, the BGC described Boris Johnson’s announcement as the “death knell” to casinos.

Earlier this week, more than 20 London-based casinos offered to close their bars and restaurants at 10 PM to avoid having to completely close as part of the Covid curfew. As we previously reported, casino executives from Grosvenor Casinos, the Clermont Club, and Leicester Squares’ the Hippodrome issued a letter to London Mayor Sadiq Khan in an attempt to compromise.

In a letter responding to Boris Johnson’s announcement of new anti-Covid measures, BGC’s Michael Dugher said: “Boris Johnson may well have signalled the death knell for the casino industry by including them in the list of venues which will be forced to close their doors at 10 PM.

“He has taken this decision despite the sector offering to close its bars and restaurants inside casinos at 10 PM and despite the fact the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport argued that casinos – which do up to 70 per cent of their trade after 10 PM – should be exempt from these restrictions.”

He continues: “In his statement, the Prime Minister said ‘we will ensure that businesses can stay open in a Covid-compliant way’. But his own public health officials saw for themselves the sophisticated anti-Covid measures which casinos have put in place – and then gave them the go-ahead to re-open just last month because they are Covid-safe.

“It is now absolutely vital that the Government throws the industry a lifeline by putting in place an urgent economic package to alleviate the damage that this decision will cause. That must include an extension to the furlough scheme beyond 31 October, while there is also merit in Labour’s calls for a £1.76bn ‘High Street fightback fund’ to help those businesses affected by the curfew.”

Dugher ended the statement by saying: “The 10 PM curfew will slash casino income by up to 75 per cent and likely lead to half their workforce – some 7,000 people – being made redundant. Without immediate and substantial help from the Government, perfectly viable casinos – which between them paid £1.3bn in tax to the Treasury in the last three years – will simply go to the wall. How does the Prime Minister hope to power an economic recovery if he’s sat back and allowed the whole industries to go to the wall?”

Gambling Reforms: Changes Are Coming

The news comes after reports claimed that UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson and close advisors Dominic Cummings and Munira Mirza have all taken over in the review and reform of current gambling legislation.

A report from The Guardian claims that Number 10 has taken over the reform due to “personal interest”. The report also claims that Johnson, Cummings, and Mirza are pushing for a review of the Gambling Act 2005 which could see rollbacks on various sections of the act as well as the implementation of new limitations regarding advertising.

Meanwhile, the Peers for Gambling Reform, one of the largest groups within the House of Lords, has called for a complete overhaul of current gambling legislation and has made a series of suggestions the group hopes the UK Gambling Commission will implement.

Some of the recommendations suggested by the group include limits on the speed and stake on slots, more advanced testing of new gambling products, a mandatory levy on the entire gambling industry, a ban on direct marketing, a new gambling ombudsman, an overhaul of VIP and loyalty programmes, as well as the implementation of regulation on video game loot boxes.

Chairman of the group Lord Foster of Bath said in a statement about its suggestions: “Given that we have a third of a million problem gamblers, including 55,000 children, and one gambling-related suicide every day, action is urgently needed.

“Online gambling companies have cashed in on the pandemic, making more profit and putting more lives at risk. This new group of 150 peers from across all sections of the Lords seeks to ensure urgent action is taken by the Government to reform our wholly outdated regulation. It is time for action.”