England Casinos Finally Able to Reopen August 15

  • UK government confirmed new date as part of further easing of COVID-19 restrictions
  • Prime Minister Boris Johnson delayed initial August 1 reopening by two weeks at last minute
  • Betting and Gaming Council welcomed news, called for Scotland and Wales to follow suit
  • Two-week delay cost casinos £14m ($18.3m), £6m ($7.8m) spent to make properties COVID-safe
London building sporting casino sign on facade
Casinos in England finally received the UK government’s green light to reopen August 15 after a five-month shutdown due to COVID-19. [Image: Shutterstock.com]

A long time coming

Casinos in England got the final go-ahead to reopen their facilities on August 15 as the UK government continues to ease pandemic lockdown restrictions. The Prime Minister’s Office and the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport published a press release on August 13 detailing the latest changes.

stricter enforcement measures will be in place

Stricter enforcement measures will be in place following casino reopenings, with the government cracking down on significant breaches of social distancing rules. These include doubling the maximum fine to £3,200 ($4,182) for repeated failures to comply with face-covering rules. Other facilities that will be able to resume business activity on August 15 include indoor play centers, skating rinks, and bowling alleys.

The casinos were all set to reopen on August 1 following a five-month shutdown when UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson pushed back the date by two weeks on July 31. Johnson said the decision was due to a spike in the number of COVID-19 cases.

BGC welcomes confirmation

The Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) industry group has welcomed the announcement of the “belated” reopening of casinos, tweeting out a statement:

The organization said it hopes Scotland and Wales will follow suit but warned that the casino sector is “not yet out of the woods”.

pointless two week delay”

BGC chief executive Michael Dugher said he is happy that the 12,000 people employed in the English casino sector will be able to go back to work in a safe manner. He added: “Given casinos had been cleared by Public Health England as safe to reopen and given we had the strong support of DCMS, who have been steadfast throughout, it was lamentable that our safe businesses had to suffer considerable hurt and expense with a further pointless two week delay.”

Dugher was also quick to reiterate that casinos are still facing a tough financial situation going forward, with a slow recovery expected.

Dealing with uncertainty

Earlier this week, the BGC called on the UK government to extend its furlough scheme to help offset the £14m ($18.3m) that the two-week pushback cost the casino companies. The government had been scaling down the furlough measure and expected casinos in England to pay National Insurance and pension contributions while still closed.

Casinos in Scotland are set to restart operations August 24. There is no indication of when Wales’ gambling establishments might reopen. Dugher noted that Scottish casinos have invested heavily in COVID-19 safeguards and that there “can be no justification for further delaying their opening.”

Casino facilities in England have been closed since March 20. They have spent about £6m ($7.8m) to ensure that the properties meet the required health and safety standards. There were concerns that as many as 6,000 jobs in the sector could be lost because of further delays to reopening. Some casino companies have already announced imminent job cuts as a result.