London Casinos Offering to Close Bars to Avoid Curfew

  • London Mayor Sidiq Khan reportedly favors a 10pm curfew on leisure and entertainment venues
  • Bosses of 26 London casinos sent a letter to the mayor to persuade him otherwise
  • About 70% of casino revenue is generated after 10pm
  • London casinos directly employ 4,000 people and contribute £180m ($230m) to the local economy
Red double-decker buses driving past Big Ben in London
London casinos are offering to close bars, yet keep their gaming floors open, in order to avoid a potential COVID-19 10pm curfew. [Image:]

Avoiding total shutdown

Casinos in London are offering to close their bars if a curfew in the capital goes into place, but they want to keep their gaming operations open. If the casinos have to close early, they say it could cost thousands of jobs. 

all hospitality and leisure venues in the capital would have to shut their doors by 10pm

London Mayor Sadiq Khan is reportedly in favor of such a curfew, meaning that all hospitality and leisure venues in the capital would have to shut their doors by 10pm each night. The bosses of the 26 casinos in the city wrote a letter to the mayor explaining that 70% of their trade comes after 10pm, with such a curfew being potentially “catastrophic for the industry.”

The letter says: “By all means address the core issue of drinking rather than slamming a blanket curfew on our venues which would do nothing to suppress the spread of the virus but which would simply sound the death knell for jobs and for famous London casinos.”

The letter goes on to talk about how only closing the bars at the casinos will not have as great of an impact on the casinos’ revenues and would protect jobs and the future of casinos in addition to contributing to taxes.

The letter details how the average age of casino visitors is 48 years old, meaning that it is not very likely that young people will be congregating in these establishments late at night.

A compromise

Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) chief executive Michael Dugher acknowledged the government’s help for the casinos during the pandemic but said that the blanket 10pm curfew would be “devastating” for the sector

He said that the curfew would just lead to young people mixing in households where there are no track and trace systems in place, meaning that the virus will spread faster and further. Dugher said that a “sensible compromise” would be to close the bars at the casinos but still allow the gaming operations to continue after 10pm. 

London’s casinos contribute about £180m ($230m) to the city’s gross domestic product (GDP) and 4,000 jobs each year. London casinos only reopened on August 15, after being closed since March because of the pandemic.

Difficult public health decisions

The bosses of the casinos point to public health officials approving the reopening of their facilities once certain health and safety protocols are in place. These include measures such as strict social distancing, track and trace systems, hand sanitizer stations, and perspex screens. 

In total, casinos in the UK directly employ about 14,000 people and have contributed £1.3bn ($1.66bn) in tax to the Treasury in the past three years. Casinos in Scotland have been open since August 24 and casinos in Wales reopened on August 29. There are now concerns about rapidly accelerating numbers of positive COVID-19 cases across the UK, including London.

London officials are hoping that introducing certain restrictions, like the 10pm curfew, they will help prevent a more extensive lockdown such as what was seen in the spring.

This curfew measure has already gone into place in North East England. Dugher and Genting UK CEO Paul Wilcock sent a letter to Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden, warning of the impact the curfew could have on casinos.

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