UK gambling trade and standards body the Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) has condemned the country’s government for forcing casinos to remain closed as other hospitality and leisure venues reopen, a decision it called “inconsistent and nonsensical”.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson confirmed that hotels, pubs and restaurants will be allowed to reopen from 4 July as the UK eases lockdown measures intended to limit the spread of novel coronavirus (Covid-19). However, casinos, which closed on 20 March, were not included among businesses that may reopen.
The BGC, however, said casinos were ready to reopen, having put measures in place to ensure the safety of customers and staff. Earlier this month, the BGC said its land-based casino operator members in England will be ready to reopen from 4 July,
“Casino operators have worked round the clock to ensure their premises, and the way they operate, adhere to the government’s strict anti-Covid guidelines,” the BGC said. “They now want to work urgently with ministers on any outstanding issues which will enable them to re-open their doors safely as soon after 4 July as possible.”
These measures include ensuring customers use hand sanitisers before entering the casino, as well as when joining and leaving a gaming table. The number of players at gaming tables would be limited, while floor layouts have been re-designed to ensure social distancing at all times.
“We welcome the fact that the lockdown is being eased further,” BGC chief executive Michael Dugher said. “The whole country has made sacrifices over the past few months to combat the coronavirus and it’s good news that the Government is determined to get the economy moving again by reopening the likes of pubs, restaurants, cinemas, amusement arcades and bingo halls, whilst protecting public health.
“But it is inconsistent and frankly nonsensical that casinos are being forced to remain closed, when other parts of the hospitality and leisure industry are opening up again.
The BGC added that, as the casino industry employs 14,000 people and contributes £300m in taxes to the UK treasury, reopening could provide a major economic boost.
“Our casino members make a huge contribution to the economy, sustaining thousands of jobs and providing large amounts of much-needed tax revenue to the Treasury,” Dugher said. “Casinos have done everything that they were asked to do by the government and they have pulled out all the stops to ensure they are able to open their doors safely for both staff and customers from 4 July.
“It is therefore extremely disappointing that the government has not yet cleared casinos to reopen. We want to urgently work with Ministers to ensure that casinos are reopened safely and as speedily as possible this summer”.