Gambling Industry Body Urges Safe December Reopening as England Enters One-Month Lockdown

  • UK industry body BGC wants England’s casinos, sportsbooks to reopen December 2
  • Commission has urged government to heed science when returning to Tier 1-3 system
  • It maintains there is no evidence that casinos, betting shops have contributed to virus spread
  • CEO Dugher said random shuttering negatively affects employment, UK Exchequer tax revenues 
  • European countries including France, Germany, Italy, Spain are going into lockdowns, curfews
COVID-19 social distancing sign on street in England
UK watchdog the BGC maintains that Boris Johnson’s government should allow casinos and retail sportsbooks to reopen when the new England-wide lockdown ends December 2. [Image: Shutterstock.com]

Doors shut until December 2

UK gambling and gaming industry body, the Betting and Gaming Council (BGC), has strongly urged the government to allow casinos and betting shops to safety reopen once the latest England-wide lockdown ends on December 2.  

Michael Dugher, CEO of the BGC, has urged Number 10 to take a “science-led approach” when the latest lockdown is lifted and England returns to its Tier 1-3 system. In a tweet, he said the government must avoid repeating its previous “arbitrary” approach towards betting shops and casinos:

Under Tier 3, venues classed as non-essential, such as casinos and sportsbooks, must close entirely. Pubs and restaurants, however, can stay open provided they serve substantial meals.

Following the dramatic domestic surge in COVID-19 cases, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced the new lockdown on October 31. The measure comes into force on November 5.

Residents in England must stay at home unless they are going to work or school, shopping for essentials, exercising, require medical attention, or are doing care and volunteer work. Non-essential shops plus leisure and entertainment venues such as casinos and betting shops will close. Pubs, bars, and restaurants will follow suit, except for takeout and deliveries.

No evidence against gambling venues

The BGC continued to repeat its mantra that there was no evidence that casinos, betting shops, and related gaming venues have contributed to the spread of the virus.

In a news release, it called on the UK government to end the “arbitrary and unnecessary decisions” that led to casinos and retail sportsbooks being classified alongside “non-essential” hospitality venues, under Tier 3 zoning protocols.

English casinos employ “excellent anti-COVID measures”

Even casinos that do not fall into Tier 3 zones across England are currently under orders to shut at 10pm. This is despite the BGC’s insistence that English casinos employ “excellent anti-COVID measures” such as screens, strict social distancing rules, and track and trace systems.

The BGC said that senior public health inspectors have described casinos’ pandemic protocols as the best in the hospitality and leisure sector.

Compelling points for consideration

While applauding government efforts to support businesses affected by the second lockdown, Dugher stressed that the random shuttering of casinos and betting shops under Tier 3 regulations has its repercussions on employment and the UK Exchequer.

He said that since sportsbooks opened on June 15 and casinos on August 15, they have operated safely and contributed important tax revenues to the Exchequer. Dugher also highlighted that betting shops supplied

millions of pounds to horseracing in levy and media rights payments”

He added that, while there is “widespread despair among sporting bodies”, the government needs to appreciate that the gambling industry is vital to the funding of sport. Brick-and-mortar sportsbooks, in particular, are critical to the financing of horseracing, Dugher concluded.

Meanwhile, across the English border

The four casinos in Wales, which have been closed following the country’s short ‘firebreak’ lockdown, could potentially reopen on November 9. According to The Guardian, First Minister Mark Drakeford said police in Wales and England would have a role to play to make sure “English residents do not illegally cross the border when the Welsh hospitality industry reopens.”

Scotland, meanwhile, is not under lockdown, but casinos in the capital Edinburgh and its most populous city Glasgow got a temporary closure order effective October 9-25. The United Kingdom’s northernmost country has, however, effected a new five-level system starting November 1. Under the new system, nine out of Scotland’s 11 casinos located in Edinburgh and Glasgow must remain shut.

Land-based betting establishments in Northern Ireland remain open, while those in the Republic of Ireland will stay closed until December 2.

Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Portugal, Spain, the Czech Republic, and the Netherlands have all imposed local or nationwide lockdowns, or curfews, as the second wave of the pandemic floods Europe.