British casino boss blasts “senseless” new lockdowns

Casinos must close in several areas in the north of England.
Casinos must close in several areas in the north of England.

The head of Grosvenor Casinos and Mecca Bingo has criticised the new closures of gaming venues in parts of the UK.

UK.- Jonathon Swaine, the managing director of Grosvenor Casinos and Mecca Bingo, has attacked the government-ordered closure of gaming venues in regions of the UK that have been placed back under Covid-19 lockdowns.

The British government has imposed a new three-tier system under which areas placed in tier three are obliged to close certain types of businesses, including casinos and betting shops.

Many areas in the north of England are affected, including Greater Manchester, Liverpool City Region, Lancashire and South Yorkshire.

Swaine said the closures were “senseless” and “grossly unfair” and will have a heavy economic impact.

He said: “The enforced closure of our ultra Covid-secure casinos is senseless.

“At first we thought that the decisions being made were arbitrary but it’s now clear that our casinos are being subjected to an aggressive and needless attack by decision-makers who clearly understand nothing of just how safe casinos are and appear determined to damage the land-based betting and gaming industry for the sake of it. 

“Venues such as pubs are able to remain open and serve alcohol if they also sell a meal, which leaves gambling venues as the only ones ordered by government to shut up shop. It is grossly unfair.”

He added: “As well as operating to the very highest Covid-secure standards with robust evidence to support that position, casinos support huge numbers of jobs whilst paying up to 50 per cent tax rates to the Exchequer.

“We have offered to close our casino bars in exchange for permission to trade but are still being forced to close and we’re yet to see or hear of a single shred of evidence that supports that decision.

“It’s a targeted attack on betting and gaming premises, the tens of thousands of employees and customers in this sector and the time has come to call it out for what it is.”

The Betting and Gaming Council has also attacked the government decision. Chief executive Michael Dugher has written to Business Secretary Alok Sharma urging the department to intervene to block the government’s decision.

Dugher said: “There are currently just over 6,700 shops employing nearly 40,000 staff across the country, the majority of which are female.

“The singling out of betting shops for closure is unfair, unnecessary and runs counter to the sensible approach the government had previously adopted.

“This decision looks ill-informed, arbitrary, and along with plans to close Covid-secure casinos (that had offered to give up selling alcohol) it frankly looks anti-gambling industry.

“It will have a hugely negative impact on our businesses and staff, despite their efforts to ensure a very safe environment for customers that is well beyond any other non-essential retail business.”

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