Scotland Government Orders 16-Day Shutdown for Select Casinos After COVID-19 Spike

  • Casinos and liquor-licensed establishments in Scotland’s central belt must close until October 25
  • The government is sending a £40m (US$51.6m) support package to businesses within two weeks
  • Scotland’s casinos have only been open for a month, having already lost five months to COVID-19
  • First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said that Scotland is facing an average of 788 new cases daily
Bagpiper outside Dunnottar Castle in Stonehaven, Scotland
Following a COVID-19 spike, the Scottish government has announced a targeted, two-week central region shutdown which will impact heavily on casinos. [Image: Shutterstock.com]

Casinos must close at 6pm Friday

Following a dramatic COVID-19 spike, casinos in the Scottish capital Edinburgh and the country’s biggest city Glasgow have been ordered by the Scottish government to shut down October 9-25. Casinos in Greater Glasgow and the Clyde Valley, Ayrshire and Arran, Forth Valley, Lothian, and Lanarkshire will close for 16 days starting at 6:00pm on Friday.

Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced a raft of COVID-19 containment measures to the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh on Wednesday. According to Sturgeon, from October 6 to when she made her address the next day, an additional 1,054 coronavirus cases had been confirmed in Scotland, prompting the urgent measures.

The news is particularly devastating for central belt cities Edinburgh and Glasgow. Between them, the Scottish capital Edinburgh, and its most populous city Glasgow, account for nine of Scotland’s 11 casinos.

a huge blow to casinos in Scotland”

The “news will come as a huge blow to casinos in Scotland,” said a spokesperson for the UK’s Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) in response to the government’s announcement. Sturgeon also, however, announced an “additional” £40m (US$51.6m) package to support affected businesses over the next two weeks.

Government needs to act quickly

BGC CEO Michael Dugher welcomed the Scottish government’s support package in a tweet, but warned it needed to get to affected businesses, including casinos, without delay.

Gambling establishments across the United Kingdom, including Scotland’s 11 casinos, were ordered to shut down on March 20. Only on August 24, a full five months later, were casinos in Scotland allowed to reopen.

With many of Scotland’s casinos only operational for a little over a month after reopening in August, the latest closure order is a bitter pill for businesses trying to rebuild. This is particularly poignant for the central belt cities of Edinburgh and Glasgow. Scotland’s largest city Glasgow is home to five of the country’s 11 casinos, including the country’s biggest, the Caesars Entertainment-operated Alea Glasgow.

Bingo halls, indoor bowling alleys, and snooker and pool halls will also close for the next two weeks. Hotels will be allowed to remain open for residents and cafes without alcohol licenses can stay open until 6:00pm.

But unlike pubs, bars, restaurants, and cafes in other parts of Scotland – which can carry on serving alcohol up to a 10:00pm curfew – the central region is not so lucky. All licensed premises, with the exception of hotels for residents, will be required to close until October 25.

Sense of urgency

In her speech, Sturgeon expressed her awareness that lives and jobs are on the line, and that the new restrictions were not entered into lightly. She made it clear that Scotland is not going back into lockdown, nor is it shutting down schools, colleges, or universities. But now that Scotland is reporting an average of 788 new coronavirus cases daily, “it is urgent that we act.”

Discussing the closure of facilities that serve alcohol, Jason Leitch, Scotland’s National Clinical Director, told Radio Clyde: “We’re not in prohibition. We just want for a little while, to get those numbers down….”

Sturgeon has ‘effectively signed a death sentence’ for many businesses

Scottish Hospitality Group Stephen Montgomery spokesperson was less optimistic. He opined that Sturgeon has “effectively signed a death sentence” for many businesses operating in the Scottish hospitality industry.

“This latest blow from the Scottish Government will create fear and anger across our industry,” Montgomery said. “This is not a ‘short, sharp shock,’ rather a crippling stranglehold.”