BGC condemns UK government as casinos remain closed

The BGC has slammed the UK government for forcing casinos to remain closed as lockdown restrictions are eased.

The Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) has slammed the UK government for forcing casinos in the country to remain closed after it was announced that other leisure and hospitality businesses would be allowed to reopen next month.

In a statement, the gambling trade and standards body called the government’s decision “inconsistent” and “nonsensical.”

Criticism of the government’s decision

Yesterday (23 June) Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that hotels, pubs, and restaurants will be allowed to reopen from 4 July as lockdown restrictions, that were intended to stop the spread of the coronavirus, are being eased.

However, casinos, which have been closed since 20 March, were not included in the government’s list of businesses that will be allowed to reopen in July.

In its statement, the BGC said that casinos were ready to reopen and have already put measures in place to ensure customers and staff are safe. Earlier this month, the BGC said its land-based casino members in England will be ready to reopen from 4 July.

The BGC said: “Casino operators have worked round the clock to ensure their premises, and the way they operate, adhere to the Government’s strict anti-Covid guidelines. They now want to work urgently with ministers on any outstanding issues which will enable them to re-open their doors safely as soon after 4 July as possible.”

These new health and safety measures include ensuring customers use hand sanitisers before entering a casino venue, joining and leaving a gaming table. Player numbers at gaming tables will also be limited while casino floor layouts have been re-designed to ensure social distancing can take place at all times.

BGC chief executive Michael Dugher said: “We welcome the fact that the lockdown is being eased further. The whole country has made sacrifices over the past few months to combat the coronavirus and it’s good news that the Government is determined to get the economy moving again by reopening the likes of pubs, restaurants, cinemas, amusement arcades and bingo halls, whilst protecting public health.

“But it is inconsistent and frankly nonsensical that casinos are being forced to remain closed when other parts of the hospitality and leisure industry are opening up again.”

The BGC added that the UK casino industry employs 14,000 people and contributes £300m in taxes to the UK treasury and that the reopening venues could provide a significant boost to the economy.

Dugher added: “Casinos have done everything that they were asked to do by the government and they have pulled out all the stops to ensure they are able to open their doors safely for both staff and customers from 4 July.

“It is therefore extremely disappointing that the government has not yet cleared casinos to reopen. We want to urgently work with Ministers to ensure that casinos are reopened safely and as speedily as possible this summer.”

Betting shops reopened earlier this month

Although the government left land-based casinos out of its list of businesses that can reopen next month, retail betting shops have already reopened.

On Monday 15 June, non-essential retail businesses were given the green light to reopen. However, for the time being in the UK, this only applies to England as Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have yet to ease their lockdown restrictions.

Flutter Entertainment reopened all of its retail Paddy Power betting shops across England and 150 locations in the Republic of Ireland. GVC Holdings also reopened 2,445 of its Ladbrokes and Coral betting shops in England.

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