COVID-19: Scotland to Close Casinos and Betting Shops Under New Lockdown

  • Eleven council areas, including the biggest city Glasgow, are level-four designated zones
  • Scottish leader Nicola Sturgeon announced measures as COVID-19 cases continue to rise
  • Casinos to close under levels two to four, betting shops in level-three areas can stay open
  • BGC pushed for betting shop reopenings ASAP to continue “contributing to the economy”
  • Major casino group sent an open letter to Sturgeon last month urging her to reconsider closures
Greyfriars Bobby statue in Edinburgh protected with face mask during the COVID-19 pandemic
Now on level-four COVID-19 alert, all Scotland’s 11 casinos and around 500 betting shops around the country will close temporarily, starting 6pm tonight. [Image: Shutterstock.com]

Closures effective 6pm today

Scotland’s 11 casinos and approximately 500 betting shops will close at 6pm on November 20 until December 11. The new rules come into effect today as 11 council areas move up to the maximum level-four lockdown restrictions in order to slow the spike in COVID-19 infections across Scotland.

Scotland First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced the escalation to level four at a media briefing in St Andrew’s House, Edinburgh on November 18. The governing Scottish National Party (SNP) tweeted an excerpt from her speech:

In Scotland’s biggest city, Glasgow, betting shops and casinos – deemed non-essential retail and entertainment venues – must close under level-four restrictions. While casinos need to remain shuttered even under levels two and three, betting shops in level-three areas, which include Dundee and Edinburgh, can remain open. Restaurants, cafes, pubs, and bars will also suspend business in level-four areas.

Out of Scotland’s 11 casinos, eight are in Glasgow and the capital Edinburgh. Glasgow’s four are Alea Casino Glasgow, Genting Casino Glasgow, Grosvenor Casino Merchant City, and Grosvenor Casino Riverboat. Edinburgh’s four casinos are Grosvenor Casino Maybury, Genting Club Fountainpark, Genting Casino York Place, and Genting Casino Leith. Only three casinos, Grosvenor Casino Aberdeen, Rainbow Casino Aberdeen, and Grosvenor Casino Dundee, operate outside of Edinburgh or Glasgow.

Gambling industry body reacts

While admitting that the latest measures were “tough”, Sturgeon pointed to the 84,523 confirmed COVID-19 cases in Scotland. In her Wednesday statement, the SNP leader highlighted 54 deaths in a 24-hour period as encapsulating “one of our motivations” for the new restrictions.

In response to the level-four escalation, a spokesperson for the Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) said the industry representative fully supported the Scottish government’s attempts to slow the pandemic.

forced closure of betting shops was “extremely disappointing” for the staff and customers

But the body also said that the forced closure of betting shops was “extremely disappointing” for the staff and customers that the shutdowns will affect. The BGC highlighted the facilities’ “excellent anti-Covid measures which have enabled them to operate safely since they re-opened in the summer.”

Scotland’s 900 retail betting shops, which employ 4,500 people, closed their doors during the first COVID-19 lockdown in mid-March. The Scottish government only lifted restrictions on the betting shops on July 22.

In its statement, the BGC concluded with its desire that betting shops can reopen at the earliest possible date “so they can go back to contributing to the economy.”

Casinos suffer major blow

COVID-19 restrictions placed on casinos in Scotland and England have been harsh. Gambling venues across the United Kingdom, including Scotland’s 11 casinos, first received the order to close on March 20. Fully five months later, on August 24, casinos in Scotland got the go-ahead to reopen, only to have to close again between October 9 and October 25.

The BGC warned Sturgeon that the October order to shut down casinos would be “a huge blow to casinos in Scotland”, which employ around 700 people. It also urged the Scottish government to act fast in disbursing the £40m (US$51.6m) support package to affected businesses such as casinos.

According to a report in The Scotsman, Rank Group chief executive John O’Reilly sent an open letter to Sturgeon late last month, pleading the SNP leader to think again before shuttering casinos. The UK-based group owns five Grosvenor casinos in Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeen, and Dundee.

Jobs will unquestionably be lost, communities damaged, tax revenues foregone”

In his letter, O’Reilly said: “Jobs will unquestionably be lost, communities damaged, tax revenues foregone, and this will have no impact whatsoever on the spread of the virus – I urge you to reconsider.”

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