The Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) has warned that the UK government’s decision to delay casino reopenings could permanently damage the gambling industry.
Last month, the English government gave brick-and-mortar casino venues the green light to reopen from Saturday, August 1st. However, a day before the official reopening, Boris Johnson announced that the reopening of said venues will be delayed two weeks.
According to the government, the decision was made due to concerns over an increase in COVID-19 cases. Now, casino venues along with cinemas and bowling alleys are forced to remain closed until August 15th, although betting shops and bingo halls have been open since June 15th and July 4th.
The announcement regarding the delay came as the government imposed additional restrictions in east Lancashire, parts of West Yorkshire, and Greater Manchester, prohibiting them from visiting other households inside their homes.
Now, the Betting and Gaming Council has warned that the gambling industry may not recover from the closure, having already been closed for around four months. The firm also warned that the delayed reopening could lead to around 6,000 job losses, around half of all jobs in the industry.
In a blog post on the BGC website, the firm described the government’s decision to delay casino reopenings as “highly illogical, inconsistent, and deeply damaging to those businesses and the thousands of staff they employ.”
The firm also explained that the preparations in the lead-up to the supposed casino reopening cost the industry around £6 billion including taking staff off the government’s furlough scheme, increasing food and security costs, and more. It warned that for every week casino venues remain closed costs the industry an additional £5 million per week.
Michael Dugher, the Chief Executive at the BGC, said in a statement: “The government are swinging a wrecking ball right through the middle of our industry and large scale job losses, which ought to be unnecessary and avoidable, now look inevitable unless ministers act fast.
“Casinos are a small but fundamental part of our leisure, hospitality, entertainment, and tourism industry. They employ over 14,000 people across the UK and indirectly support another 4,000 jobs in the supply sector, and last year casinos paid over £5.7 million in tax per week.”
He continued: “The ongoing cost of remaining in a holding pattern to reopen is clearly not sustainable, with more jobs and livelihoods being put at risk with every last-minute change and delay to reopening.
“The Job Retention Scheme has helped but our members will now be forced to pay National Insurance and pension contributions on top of salaries in August while they remain closed. As furlough payments are phased out, there will be no flexibility for casinos to adapt to the new working and leisure environment and I now fear that many thousands of jobs could be lost.”
Dugher ended the statement by saying: “We made the all necessary preparations for safe reopening and we were given the green light by Public Health England on the basis of the significant investment made by operators, and having been told by the Government themselves that casinos posed a ‘negligible’ risk compared with the tens of thousands of other places that they have been reopened.”
The news comes weeks after Buzz Bingo announced the permanent closure of 26 of its UK venues in Wythenshawe, Banbury, Worcester, Boston, Wolverhampton, Bournemouth, Wigan Robin Park, Bridlington, Weymouth, Carlisle, Wednesbury, Chorley, Tamworth, Cramlington, Stockland Green, Derby Foresters, Southampton Antelope Park, Edinburgh Westerhailes, Salford, Harpurhey, Oxford Kassam, Hereford, Milton Keynes, Kilmarnock, and more.
Around the same time, Genting Casino revealed it will be cutting around 1,600 jobs and permanently closing three of its casino venues in Bristol, margate, and Torquay. Meanwhile, venues located in London, Blackpool, Birmingham, and Edinburgh will all have staff cuts.
Grosvenor Casino is another gambling brand which has announced that it will be cutting jobs due to the financial implications of the COVID-19 lockdown, and other casino brands throughout the country may soon announce similar cuts due to their prolonged closure.
As the English government has flip-flopped over its decision to delay casino reopenings, the BGC has been campaigning for the Scottish government to reopen its casinos.
Following lots of campaigning and encouragement, the Scottish government announced on July 31st that casino venues and bingo halls will be allowed to reopen from August 24th. In addition, all gaming machines at betting shops will be allowed to turn back on following the government’s u-turn requiring shops to keep them off one day after allowing them.
As reported by SBC News, the decision was praised by Dugher who said in a statement: “We are delighted that casinos and bingo halls in Scotland have finally been given a date to re-open.
“They have demonstrated their commitment to ensuring the safety of their staff and customers, and it’s great that this has been recognised by the Scottish Government. We’re already looking forward to casinos in England opening their doors again this weekend, and I hope that their Welsh colleagues will soon be receiving the same good news.”
He continued: “I’m also very pleased that the Scottish Government has listened to our concerns about betting shops having to switch off their gaming machines. It’s great that they will be back on again from 24 August.”
As mentioned, the BGC will continue to campaign and encourage Wales to reopen its casino venues, alongside England.
All venues that do open are required to follow all social distancing rules and implement protection methods such as perspex screens, track and trace mechanisms, and they will all need to implement hand sanitisation equipment as well as frequent cleaning of all gaming machines, tables, casino chips, and more.
It’s currently unknown whether or not casino venues in England will officially reopen later this month or whether they will once again be delayed due to concerns over COVID-19. Regardless, further delays will only continue to harm and already-suffering industry.
Luckily, online casinos are still fully-functional and can be used for gambling. If you’re looking for some suggestions on casino websites, check out our recommendations of new casinos here.