Update: The UK government announced new restrictions for North East England, including a 10pm to 5am curfew for leisure and entertainment facilities such as casinos. The measures come into force on September 18.
The Betting and Gaming Council deemed the decision an “illogical” and “catastrophic” one that is likely to bring about the loss of thousands of jobs. It maintained that casinos are “among the most Covid-secure in the country”, with patrons often visiting alone or as a couple and therefore easily able to adhere to social distancing guidelines.
The BGC warned that the gambling industry will be “disproportionately harmed” by the “retrograde move” and urged the government to revise it.
A letter of warning
Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) CEO Michael Dugher and Genting UK CEO Paul Wilcock have both warned the UK government that an enforced 10pm curfew would “devastate” the casino industry.
considering a 10pm public curfew to limit the virus’s spread
Casinos were permitted to reopen in England, Wales, and Scotland last month after over four months of COVID-19 enforced closures. COVID cases are once again on the rise in the UK, however, and government and local authorities are currently considering a 10pm public curfew to limit the virus’s spread.
In a letter to culture secretary Oliver Dowden, Dugher and Wilcock explained how the “drastic” curfew would be severely detrimental to an industry which conducts 50% to 70% of its trade after 10pm. The letter also argued that casino visitors are typically older than the younger demographic being targeted by the curfew.
On Twitter, the BGC made clear its belief that, if implemented, the curfew would put “thousands of jobs” at risk:
The struggling UK casino industry
The UK casino industry has already been severely impacted by the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, which saw all properties shut their doors to customers in mid-March. This was only worsened by a number of delays to initial July reopening plans.
unprecedented challenges and heavy losses”
Genting UK confirmed there had been “unprecedented challenges and heavy losses” as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The operator announced 1,642 of its UK staff could lose their jobs and Genting casinos in Torquay, Bristol and Margate could still potentially close their doors for good. In a public statement, Wilcock announced he had been “forced to contemplate some very difficult options to ensure survival.”
Simon Thomas, CEO of the Hippodrome casino in London, has also been vocal about the impact of continued closures on the casino industry. In a podcast with former cabinet minister Esther McVey in July, Thomas described the government’s decision to delay casino reopenings as “completely illogical.” More recently, Thomas warned that a 10pm curfew would be “economically disastrous for casinos.”
Other BGC campaigns
As a voice for the UK industry, representing close to 100 companies, the BGC has led several campaigns amid the pandemic in an effort to protect the interests of its many members, including Flutter Entertainment, Paddy Power, and GVC.
forces high-roller players to use cheques to play in casinos
Late last month, the BGC urged UK Chancellor Rishi Sunak to protect the future of the region’s high-end casinos. In a letter to Sunak, BGC boss Dugher urged the Chancellor to modernize a law which forces high-roller players to use checks to play in casinos. Dugher argued this would have a “massive impact” on the ability of the casinos to reopen and recover from the pandemic.
Most recently, BCG chairwoman Brigid Simmonds asked the UK government to provide greater support for high-street gambling companies. Despite being open again, BGC data suggests retail betting shops and casinos are still seeing only a quarter of pre-pandemic visitor levels. As a result, Simmonds urged the Communities and Local Government Select Committee, currently conducting an inquiry into UK high streets post-COVID-19, to be “hard hitting and courageous” in its government recommendations.