Last week Prime Minister Boris Johnson confirmed that casinos in England will not reopen on August 1 during a Downing Street briefing on lockdown restrictions. Ultimately this has impacted the industry, further delaying the sectors return to normality.
Genting UK was one of many Casino brands questioning the decision by the Prime Minister, especially with the announcement coming in such a short notice.
In a statement the firm condemned the decision to delay the re-opening by citing that the decision should have been made sooner not ‘less than 24 hours’ notice as to this change of plan’.
Speaking to Casino Beats, Jon Duffy, senior vice president corporate assurance and regulatory affairs at Genting UK, explains the impact this decision has on the company and highlights the precautions the firm had put in place prior to the delay.
CasinoBeats Following the government’s announcement, how do these further delays impact Genting, the casino industry and the future of your employees?
Jon Duffy: It is no exaggeration to say that we are devastated by today’s announcement. The late notice in itself has caused huge damage to our business as we had brought a significant number of staff off of furlough to prepare for the re-opening and have incurred a number of other costs which will now all be wasted – perishable food and drink products, for example.
We have been meticulously planning our re-opening for weeks now and were finally looking forward to being able to take a positive step forward… but instead we are going several steps back. To say today’s decision has come as a huge blow is an understatement.
We have been incurring huge losses since the start of this pandemic, and now, for every week we remain closed, it is costing us in the region of £1.5m. Every week! Of course this is an unsustainable position to be in and we are reaching a very critical stage.
CB: Why do you think the government believes casinos outside the North West have to remain closed?
JD: This makes no sense to us. The Prime Minister described his approach as ‘whack-a-mole’ but now we find ourselves in a situation where our casino in Plymouth is having to stay shut because of a spike in cases in the north west. That is clearly not logical.
We also have other contradictory policies being pushed ahead with. The government’s ‘eat out to help out’ scheme is still being rolled out from next week, which actively encourages groups of people to go to restaurants and pubs and to mix with people indoors.
But yet casinos have to remain shut – despite all of the meticulous planning we have carried out and all the measures we have put in place to make our environments as safe as possible. We are confident that our casinos are as safe, if not more so, than other environments across other industries that are currently operating, so we cannot make sense of the situation we find ourselves in.
CB: What measures were put into place for the original reopening date of August 1?
JD: Our planning has been absolutely meticulous, and all of the measures that have been put in place have been approved by Public Health England.
These include, but are not limited to, hand sanitizer stations installed across the estate with customers required to clean their hands upon entering and exiting the building and between playing all games, the enforcement of social distancing throughout all of our venues and one way systems created where necessary.
Capacity being reduced throughout all of our clubs and player numbers at tables were being restricted. Screens had been installed in between all of our slots and e-gaming tables, and we had created strict cleaning protocols throughout all of our premises and in relation to casino-specific items.
For example, we had systems in place to reduce circulation of chips and to ensure they were being sanitized between uses. And there were plenty of other measures being taken too. We really believe we had thought of everything and are confident our environments are safe, and certainly as safe as other leisure environments such as bars and restaurants.
CB: How many more delays can the casino industry take?
JD: The government needs to understand how critical this now is. Thousands of jobs across the UK are at risk. Genting have already had to make a series of heartbreaking decisions as a result of this pandemic, including making over 1,000 people redundant.
We are battling to save as many of the remaining jobs as we can, but clearly the delays and the uncertainty do nothing to help. We need urgent clarity.
We need to re-open in the parts of the country where other leisure businesses are now operating, and we also urge the government to reconsider the blanket withdrawal of the furlough scheme from the affected industries, who are still not permitted to re-open.