UK Casinos Propose Ban on Alcohol Sales to Avoid Further COVID-19 Closures

  • Casinos are aware that another shutdown could jeopardize thousands of gambling industry jobs
  • The offer to stop alcohol sales comes ahead of new pandemic restrictions expected next week
  • BGC's Michael Dugher sent a letter calling on MPs to keep proven COVID-secure casinos open
  • The proposed ban follows the announcement of a temporary closure order for Scottish casinos 
Sign reads No Alcohol
UK casinos are willing to stop selling alcohol in an effort to avoid further pandemic closures of their businesses. [Image: Shutterstock.com]

Trying to stay open

Casinos in the UK are offering to stop selling alcohol in an attempt to avoid further pandemic closures that could cause thousands of job losses.

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson is set to announce a new system for local lockdowns next week, which could include an order for hospitality businesses to shut their doors once again. The hope is that by banning alcohol sales, casinos would not be among the hospitality venues on the closure list.

UK gambling industry association the Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) tweeted out a statement on the casinos’ proposed alcohol ban:

UK casinos employ about 14,000 people and generated £1.3bn ($1.68bn) in tax revenue for the national treasury over the past three years. With more restrictions coming into force across the UK to help combat rising cases of the virus, casinos are fearing the worst.

A letter to MPs

BGC chief executive Michael Dugher sent a letter to MPs, calling on them to keep casinos open. He emphasized the businesses’ proven COVID-secure measures “thanks to their world class track and trace systems, the use of Perspex screens, hand sanitisers and strict social distancing rules.” He added:

There are no public health grounds to order their closure now.”

Dugher urged government ministers to understand that casinos are not “pseudo-nightclubs or places where young people go to drink.” However, he added, casinos are still willing to lower their risk levels by no longer serving alcohol. According to Dugher, the UK government seemingly believes that alcohol sales are a factor in the spread of the virus.

In his letter to MPs, Dugher also highlighted how casinos in Wales can stay open past the 10pm curfew if they are not serving alcohol. Contrastingly, casinos in England have to close at 10pm, even if they stop serving alcoholic beverages.

Concerns about further closures

The proposed alcohol ban comes after Scotland First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced this week that all hospitality venues, including casinos, in the country’s central belt will have to temporarily shut their doors.

The close order encompasses major Scottish cities like Edinburgh and Glasgow, and will remain in effect until October 25.

Casinos in Wales and England believe that similar measures in their regions would be disastrous for the sector. English casinos were only given the green light to reopen on August 15 after closing in March. Welsh gambling properties were back in operation on August 29. However, business has not been back to normal; the UK government introduced a 10pm curfew on leisure and hospitality venues in September.

According to Dugher, casino revenues are currently down 70% on the total accrued for the same period in 2019.