Liverpool City Region Casinos, Betting Shops to Shut as UK Unveils “More Severe” COVID-19 Measures

  • Three-tier lockdown system was introduced following a spike in COVID-19 across the UK
  • Liverpool City Region is the first UK region to incur the “more severe local action” of tier three
  • Bars and pubs will join casinos, betting shops, and gaming centers in October 14 lockdown
  • Gambling and horse racing industry bodies are critical of and bewildered by the new measures
  • Closure order comes after the recent 10pm curfew imposed on UK gambling venues
a view of Liverpool as seen from the Mersey River side
Casinos and betting shops in the Liverpool City Region will close Wednesday after the UK government’s new COVID-19 regulations placed the region on tier three alert. [Image: Shutterstock.com]

First region to go on tier three alert

Casinos, betting shops, and gaming centers in the Liverpool City Region will close indefinitely on October 14, in line with the UK government’s strict new COVID-19 measures. The area in North West England becomes the first region in the UK to be subjected to the “more severe” new lockdown measures of a tier-three alert category. Under this categorization, bars and pubs also must close for the foreseeable future.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson revealed on Tuesday the new three-tier lockdown system in the House of Commons, following a spike in positive COVID-19 cases in nearly all regions across the UK.

As a tier three region, where coronavirus transmission is rising the fastest, the Liverpool City Region is subject to what Johnson called “more severe local action”, which includes no household mixing indoors or outdoors. Under the ruling, the region’s gyms and leisure centers will also close. Shops, schools, and universities will remain open.

Johnson told members of parliament: “This is not how we want to live our lives, but this is the narrow path we must tread between the social and economic trauma of a full lockdown and the massive human and economic cost of an uncontained epidemic.”

The three-tier alert system encompasses a medium (tier one), high (tier two), and very high (tier three) level. The tier-three alert Liverpool City Region comprises Liverpool, Knowsley, Sefton, Wirral, St Helens, and Halton.

Criticism and bewilderment

Before explaining the new three-tier system, Johnson said the rise of the UK’s coronavirus cases is “flashing at us like dashboard warnings in a passenger jet”. The new system has, however, unsurprisingly drawn a lot of heat from industry.

Liverpool Chamber of Commerce CEO Paul Cherpeau said businesses were “bewildered, frustrated and angry”. He added that while the visitor economy will be hardest hit, the drip-down effect will also have repercussions on supply chains.

UK gambling and gaming industry group the Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) pulled no punches in its response to the measures. In a tweet, the BGC called Johnson’s announcement “hugely disappointing”:

BGC CEO Michael Dugher believes betting shops, classified as non-essential retail, are being “unfairly singled out”. Dugher explained that betting shops adhere to strict COVID-19 guidelines and have also been approved by Public Health England, the executive agency of the government’s Department of Health and Social Care.

He added: “There’s no evidence that betting shops or casinos have been the source of any outbreak of the coronavirus or have contributed to a rise in the number of cases.”

we don’t understand the basis for their closure”

The British Horseracing Authority (BHA) stated that the potential closure of thousands of betting shops under the three-tier system will have a “hugely damaging impact” on the finances of both betting and racing industries. A BHA spokesman said betting shops have demonstrated they can operate safely, and went on to express bewilderment: “We don’t understand the basis for their closure when other retail outlets are unaffected”.

Sense of déjà vu

Tuesday’s announcement marks the nearest the UK has come to the full lockdown it entered into on March 23. Unlike under the previous one, the new, three-tier mandate allows schools, universities, and retail outlets to remain open.

casinos in England were only allowed to reopen from August 15

Once again, it’s the retail gambling industry that is hit hardest. Under previous coronavirus restrictions, casinos in England were only allowed to reopen from August 15, after an almost five-month hiatus. Betting shops were allowed to reopen two months prior, on June 15.

Gambling venues across the UK are already subject to a 10pm curfew which came into effect September 24. The announcement of the new three-tier system, less than two months after returning to a semi-operational form of business, comes as a compounded blow.

The BGC had previously warned the UK government that it could avoid shuttering casinos, as the operators were happy to stop selling alcohol in order to stay open.