Cejuego blasts government over delayed casino reopenings

3 June 2020

Spanish gambling trade association the Consejo Empresarial del Juego (Cejuego) has hit out at the country's government over its decision to delay the reopening of gaming venues until phase three of the country’s exit from lockdown.

All gambling facilities across Spain have been closed since 14 March, when the country entered lockdown in an effort to slow the spread of novel coronavirus (Covid-19).

As the Covid-19 situation is now improving in Spain, the country’s government has relaxed some restrictions as it proceeds with a phased exit from lockdown, with certain facilities now permitted to reopen in select regions.

The most recent update from the government placed gambling facilities in phase three of the process. As of 1 June, only the Canary Islands of El Hierro, La Gomera and La Graciosa, and the Balearic Island of Formentera, were classed as being in phase three, meaning gambling venues in these regions can now reopen.

Last week, Spanish gambling regulator Dirección General de Ordenación de Juego (DGOJ) issued a warning to gaming venues not to reopen until they were permitted to do so by the government.

Cejuego has now criticised the decision to delay the reopening of gaming venues to this latter stage, despite such facilities being similar to that of bars and retail stores that have already been permitted to reopen.

“According to the Royal Decree of March 14, once the de-escalation began, it would be carried out by health-related criteria and not by area of activity: this is not being respected,” Cejuego chief executive Alejandro Landaluce said. “It is being carried out in a discriminatory way and as a sector we feel disadvantaged.”

Cejuego also criticised some of the criteria that venues must adhere to when they are permitted to reopen, with the Ministry of Health saying gaming rooms may open at 50% capacity but not have more than 50 people inside, including staff. The association said that while this may be possible for some gaming rooms and betting shops, it is “incompatible for the opening of casinos and bingo halls”.

Landaluce said: “We do not understand that a restriction of 50 people is applied to the gambling venues, regardless of the capacity of the room, as it is a measure that does not adhere to sanitary reasons and that is not applied in other activities similar to gambling.

“Establishments such as bingo halls and casinos require a large number of staff to operate, so this measure is incompatible with the opening of the activity in many cases.”

Landaluce also noted that if venues were to reopen at such limitations, it would be difficult for operators to reactivate employment and remove some staff from ERTE (furlough). According to Cejuego, over 47,000 people are employed in the retail gambling sector in Spain, with a further 174,500 indirect jobs related to the market.

“It is difficult to explain to your workers that they have to continue to be on furlough while they see how other sectors with similar characteristics are returning to work,” Landaluce said.

“We face daily the uncertainty of whether the opening authorisation will take place or not within a period of less than 24 hours, without prior notice that allows us to prepare the venues and employees for the opening.”

Last week, it was also confirmed that professional sport in Spain will resume this month following the Covid-19 enforced suspension, with horse racing to return from 3 June, followed by the country's football leagues on 11 June.