BGC urges Chancellor to allow UK casinos to reopen this month
The Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) has again called on the UK government to allow land-based casinos to reopen this month, with chief executive Michael Dugher warning that further delays could cause “severe damage” to the sector.
Betting shops were permitted to welcome punters again from last month, while bingo halls also began to reopen their doors from 4 July, but the government is yet to indicate when casinos could follow.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak is due to make a statement on Wednesday as to how he plans to reboot the UK economy after Covid-19, and Dugher has urged him to use this speech to also set out how and when casinos, which have been shut since the UK entered lockdown on 23 March, can reopen.
In an open letter to the Chancellor, Dugher said that the current furlough scheme is costing the government around £5m (€5.5m/$6.2m) each week from the land-based casino sector alone. He also noted that casinos last year paid an average of £5.7m each week in tax and duties.
“The UK casino sector were sorely disappointed not to be included in the list of industries allowed to reopen on 4 July,” Dugher said, referring to how pubs, restaurants, cinemas and a number of other businesses were allowed to reopen at the weekend.
“Casinos want to get back in business and once again contributing to the economy, not costing the Exchequer money. With phased reductions in wage support kicking in soon, there is however a real fear that if reopening doesn’t happen in July there will be severe damage caused to the casino industry.”
Dugher also set out his belief that casinos are ready to safely welcome customers after putting in place a number of measures to protect visitors. These include the installation of perspex screens and santisation equipment, as well as setting up track and trace systems and adhering to social distancing regulations.
“To our knowledge, casinos have met all Covid safety requirements and yet they are still not permitted to open,” Dugher said. “We urgently ask for your help to get casinos reopened and back to contributing to the UK economy.
“The cost of remaining in a reopening ‘holding pattern’ is significantly higher as it means businesses are kept in a state of preparedness, including maintaining the premises for reopening, cleaning, restocking supplies and staffing.”
In addition, Dugher pointed out how casinos across Europe have already been able to reopen, despite having to meet less stringent measures than those in the UK.
“Having made the necessary preparations for a July reopening, casinos are ready and able to open at the earliest opportunity,” Dugher said. “We would greatly appreciate any help you can give to get our businesses back open and contributing to the UK economy.”
The call comes after Rank Group last week said that its Grosvenor Casinos are “ready to safely open”, despite having not yet been given a date to welcome customers again.
Rank chief executive John O'Reilly said the operator is “working hard to ensure we receive the support of government to reopen our casinos soon” and that its staff are “very keen to get back to work”.