“Drastic” UK casino curfew would risk thousands of jobs

The industry has also called on the goverment to extend the UK's furlough scheme.
The industry has also called on the goverment to extend the UK's furlough scheme.

Casino operators and the BGC have warned a curfew would devastate the industry.

UK.- The gaming industry has warned that a possible curfew for casinos would risk “thousands of redundancies”.

The UK government is reportedly considering a 10pm curfew for casinos as well as pubs and bars in a bid to reduce the Covid-19 infection rate.

But industry association the Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) and casino operator Genting UK say the measure would have no significant effect on reducing the spread of Covid-19 and would lead to mass redundancies. 

BGC chief executive, Michael Dugher, and Genting UK chief operating officer, Paul Wilcock, have written a joint letter to Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden to voice opposition to the idea.

“To ensure the sector’s survival it is vital that any additional Covid social distancing measures, such as curfews, are not imposed on businesses that have demonstrated that they are Covid-secure and do not cater for the age group targeted by the measure.

“The introduction of a blanket measure such as curfews would certainly result in many thousands of redundancies in a very short timeframe.  It is no exaggeration to state that it would devastate the UK land-based casino sector.”

They noted that casinos have implemented “best-in-class” measures to reduce the spread of the novel coronavirus, including capacity limits, screens between players and track and trace systems. 

They said that the reintroduction of measures to control Covid-19 should be targeted at specific areas of the country and age groups and not applied arbitrarily across the board. 

They noted that Public Health England and the Department for Health and Social Care said casinos were not “higher risk” in July and that the average age of casino visitors was 48 – above the age the government had said it was aiming to control.

They said: “The conclusion to draw is that the impact of a casino curfew on Covid numbers would be negligible but the impact on our businesses would be catastrophic.”

Casinos in the UK employ around 14,000 people. In July, Genting UK announced 1,642 redundancies across its UK casinos

Dugher warned that a curfew could lead to many casinos closing permanently. The BGC has previously warned of permanent closures of casinos over delays in reopening and “outdated” payment laws for foreign customers.

“We support the need to act swiftly to protect public health and thank the government for the support they have given the UK’s casinos so far. However, a blanket 10pm curfew on businesses would be catastrophic and force casinos to close once again – this time for good.”

In their letter to the culture minister, Dugher and Wilcock also called on the government to either extend the UK’s furlough scheme or introduce other forms of support for businesses. They said casinos were not yet operating at a high enough capacity to support full employment.

Earlier this week BGC chair Brigid Simmonds said retail betting establishments should be put at the centre of a government inquiry into how to promote a recovery of the British high street following the pandemic.

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