The Betting and Gaming Council has asserted that casinos and betting shops must be permitted to reopen in unison once the country is given the green light to safely emerge from lockdown.
Lauding the pace of the vaccine roll-out across the UK, the industry standards body has made the plea ahead of Prime Minister Boris Johnson delivering a roadmap out of lockdown, which is expected on February 22.
“As the vaccine roll out continues and the country begins to emerge from lockdown, it is important that businesses are able to plan effectively for reopening,” stated Michael Dugher, chief executive of the Betting and Gaming Council.
“Ministers must be clear from the outset what the next few months will look like and there should be a consistent approach across the sectors.”
The BGC has said that its members, which employ 44,000 people in betting shops and casinos, are ready to support the economic recovery and must be given the same opportunities to reopen as other parts of the economy.
For betting shops, it says that that means reopening in line with other non-essential retailers; while for casinos reopening must be done alongside hospitality venues such as pubs and restaurants.
Dugher explained: “Betting shops must be allowed to reopen alongside other non-essential retail. Last summer, when most betting shops were able to open, they showed that they have best-in-class anti-COVID measures compared to any other part of the high street to protect customers and staff. It is vital that ministers allow them to play their part in stimulating the high street, along with other non-essential retailers.
“Likewise, casinos are eager to help Britain get back on its feet. The night-time economy has taken a hammering during the pandemic and draconian restrictions, including the 10pm curfew, have made a difficult situation more desperate for many businesses.
“Ministers must allow casinos to reopen at the same time as other hospitality businesses including pubs and they must scrap the curfew. It didn’t work last summer and it won’t work now.
“There will be no let-up in our commitment to safety, but we need the economy to open up again – not least if we are to revive the country’s tax take and fund vital public services like the NHS. But the thousands of people employed in betting shops and casinos deserve nothing less than a level playing field, so that everyone gets the same opportunities to recover.”
Last week, Debbie Husband, national director of operations for Grosvenor UK, suggested that it is “absolutely vital that casinos remain hitched to the wider hospitality sector”.
With the timetable and criteria for emerging from the current lockdown forthcoming, Husband also urged the need for curfew mandates to remain a thing of the past.