New nationwide pandemic measures
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced a raft of new COVID-19 measures on Tuesday that has set gambling industry alarm bells ringing. Fresh restrictions on casinos include a 10pm to 5am curfew, effective September 24. Plans allowing fans back into sports stadiums from October 1 – and all horse racing events trialing limited spectatorship – have also been shelved.
restrictions could remain in effect for “six months”
Speaking to MPs in the House of Commons on Tuesday, Johnson warned that the restrictions could remain in effect for “six months”.
Michael Dugher, CEO of the UK’s Betting and Gaming Council (BGC), tweeted that the PM’s announcement likely carries a death sentence for the casino industry:
The spectator ban at sporting events is “a serious blow to the horseracing industry and to the people and communities who depend upon it for their living”, the British Horseracing Authority warned in a press release. For soccer, the nation’s number-one sport, the news is dire. English soccer’s governing body the Football Association expressed its concern with the latest restrictions, saying that struggling clubs were “looking forward to crowds coming back in order to provide much-needed income.”
Johnson’s decision flies in the face of the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS)’s recommendation that casinos, which conduct around “70% of their trade after 10pm”, should be exempt from curfew rules.
Casualties of COVID-19 war
According to The Guardian, Johnson’s language in his Tuesday address to the nation was reminiscent of “his hero Winston Churchill’s wartime broadcast.” The prime minister said that while the vast majority of UK citizens adhered to the rules, “there have been too many breaches – too many opportunities for our invisible enemy to slip through undetected.”
there have been too many breaches”
In a statement from the BGC, Dugher warned that the curfew would reduce casino income by up to 75% and likely lead to half its workforce – meaning “some 7,000 people” – facing the axe. The CEO wants the UK government to urgently assist the casino industry with an economic rescue package, which includes extending the furlough scheme beyond October 31.
Pointing out how casinos contributed £1.3bn ($1.65bn) in tax to the UK Treasury over the last three years, Dugher asked: “How does the Prime Minister hope to power an economic recovery if he’s sat back and allowed whole industries to go to the wall?”
Races resume behind closed doors
The UK’s horse racing industry has been conducting ‘pilot’ trials, whereby only a limited number of fans are permitted through the turnstiles on race days. In a joint statement, the British Horseracing Authority (BHA), the Racecourse Association (RCA), and The Horsemen’s Group observed that the trial events have shown “exemplary response” from spectators, indicating that they could take place in a safe manner.
The statement observed that the racing industry faced a “severe threat” despite its best efforts recently to reach a workable solution for the UK’s number-two spectator sport. “Without the millions of people who normally enjoy a day at the races, many people’s jobs are at serious risk, as are the businesses they work in”, it added.
A pilot three-day event at the Newmarket racecourse starting Thursday, which planned to open its gates to 1,000 fans per day, will now take place behind closed doors.