Boris Johnson Pushes England Casino Reopening to August 15

  • England’s previous target dates were July 4, followed by August 1
  • Boris Johnson cites uptick in COVID-19 figures as the reason for the delay
  • The Betting and Gaming Council calls the decision “highly illogical”
  • Many casinos were ready to reopen on Saturday
Empire Casino London
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has announced that England casinos must now wait until August 15 to reopen after previously being given a target date of August 1. [Image: Shutterstock.com]

Another delay

Previously slated to reopen on Saturday, August 1, England casinos will have to be content to wait at least another two weeks. In a speech on Friday, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said that he has moved the target reopening date for “higher risk settings” such as casinos and bowling alleys to Saturday, August 15.

we should now squeeze that brake pedal in order to keep the virus under control.”

“At every point I have said our plan to reopen society and the economy is conditional – that it relies on continued progress against the virus, and that we would not hesitate to put on the brakes if required,” Johnson said. “With those numbers creeping up, our assessment is that we should now squeeze that brake pedal in order to keep the virus under control.”

England’s casinos have been closed since early March in an effort to combat the spread of COVID-19. In early June, around the same time that Nevada casinos were permitted to reopen, it was announced that casinos in England could welcome back guests on July 4. That eventually got pushed to August 1. Wedding receptions and the testing larger crowds at sporting events have also been put on hold.

“I know that the steps we are taking will be a heavy blow to many people,” Johnson said, “But we simply cannot take the risk.”

Industry group furious

As was the case when the decision was made not to let casinos reopen on July 4, industry group The Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) is not happy, saying it is in “utter dismay” at the latest news.

Similar to when he called the move to August 1 “inconsistent and frankly nonsensical”, BGC chief executive Michael Dugher wrote to Chancellor Rishi Sunak MP that the latest decision is “highly illogical, inconsistent and deeply damaging to those businesses and thousands of staff they employ.”

Dugher questioned the decision to go with a continued nationwide lockdown, rather than evaluate situations on a region-by-region or town-by-town basis, as the government had said it was going to do.

bizarre and quite wrong”

The BGC’s head also cited the extensive health and safety measures England casinos have taken, challenging Boris Johnson’s categorization of casinos as being “higher risk” venues. That assertion, Dugher said, is “bizarre and quite wrong”.

“Casinos want to get back in business and once again contributing to the economy,” he added. “The DCMS have supported our efforts to get casinos reopened, yet have been excluded from this shambolic decision.”

Casinos in a holding pattern

This obviously means that any casinos that were ready to open their doors tomorrow will have to keep the champagne on ice for a bit longer. Last week, Grosvenor Casinos, part of the Rank Group, announced that it was going to reopen 44 England casinos on August 1.

It even released a video featuring former world champion boxer David Haye to explain its safety protocols. One health measure that Grosvenor said it would not require is face coverings. Interestingly, though face masks are required by law in much of England, they are not in casinos and other entertainment venues such as movie theaters. They are required in shops, however, so if a casino patron entered a casino gift shop, they would have to don a mask.

While Grosvenor is ready to go, the Genting Group announced in June that it might have to close its casinos in Torquay, Bristol, and Margate permanently because of the loss of income resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. The company has also decided to stop offering live poker at its UK poker rooms, even after the pandemic restrictions are lifted.