BGC warns of crucial recovery period with casinos in England set to reopen

The Betting and Gaming Council has welcomed the “belated” reopening of casinos in England this week, lauding the news as a relief for 12,000 employees but warning that difficult days still lie ahead.

This comes after the UK government issued a revised reopening date of August 15 for the latest easing of lockdown restrictions, after initially being delayed at the start of the month, as the BGC urged Wales and Scotland to quickly follow suit.

Alongside casinos; bowling alleys, skating rinks and soft play centres will be permitted to reopen, as well as indoor theatres, music and performance venues with social distanced audiences, with the piloting of live audiences at sporting events to also commence. The new guidance will not be applicable to areas where local lockdown measures are being enforced.

The industry standards body says the revision ends two weeks of delay and uncertainty, during which time around half the casino sector jobs, and high profile venues such as the Hippodrome in London and Les Ambassadeurs in the city’s Mayfair, were said to be under threat.

Michael Dugher, chief executive of the BGC, said: “This belated good news will come as a welcome relief to the 12,000 people employed in the casino sector in England. We regret that it has taken so long for staff to return to work – long after all manner of venues and activities, that don’t have anything like the anti-covid measures you will see in any casino, were reopened.

“Given casinos had been cleared by Public Health England as safe to reopen and given we had the strong support of DCMS, who have been steadfast throughout, it was lamentable that our safe businesses had to suffer considerable hurt and expense with a further pointless two week delay.

“Casinos are not yet out of the woods though. The last five months has left many casinos on the brink and the next few months will be particularly crucial to their recovery as the tourism, leisure and hospitality sector slowly gets back on its feet. 

“This sector can play an important part in our national economic recovery and I hope ministers will continue to work closely with the industry to provide support through this difficult period. In return, casinos will continue to play their part in helping to revive our city centres and nighttime economy, as well as supporting the country through the £1bn economic contribution it makes in direct and indirect gross value added.”

Earlier this week, the BGC called for an extension of the furlough scheme to help offset the £14m cost to the industry caused by the government’s earlier u-turn.

The group’s plea to Scotland and Wales comes with casinos remaining shuttered, although the Scottish Government has indicated that they can open on August 24.

Dugher added: “We hope that the Scottish Government will be true to its stated commitment about helping businesses, and allow casinos in Scotland to reopen as scheduled on 24th August. Casinos have invested heavily in new COVID safeguards.

“There can be no justification for further delaying their opening. We continue to urge the Welsh Government to fully engage with the sector and seek the reassurances we can provide to bring about the safe reopening of casinos in Wales.”