London casinos seek compromise to avoid curfew

Casinos says they do most of their business after 10pm.
Casinos says they do most of their business after 10pm.

Casinos have offered to close their bars from 10pm in a bid to prevent having curfews imposed as a Covid-19 measure.

UK.- Casinos are attempting to negotiate a compromise after the government suggested they may be subject to curfews as the UK looks to tighten Covid-19 measures again.

In a bid to avoid facing a 10pm curfew along with pubs and bars in the country, the heads of London’s 26 casinos have written to the city’s mayor, Sadiq Khan, to suggest they close just their bars from 10pm.

The UK’s industry association, the Betting and Gaming Council, wrote to the government last week to voice its fears that applying a curfew to casinos could cause venues to close down permanently, putting thousands of jobs at risk.

However, with Covid-19 cases continuing to rise, Prime Minister Boris Johnson is today (Tuesday) expected to announce stricter measures, including a 10pm curfew for pubs and bars from Thursday.

Some areas of the country have already imposed restricted hours on the leisure sector, including casinos. In parts of the north-east, businesses can only open between 5am and 10pm.

In their letter to Khan, executives, including those of The Hippodrome, Grosvenor, Caesars and the Clermont Club, point out that their venues do up to 70 per cent of their trade after 10pm meaning that a curfew would have a “catastrophic” impact.

They suggested that instead they could close their bars to ensure people spread out across the casino floor, avoiding customers congregating in groups.

The letter says: “If London is subjected to a 10pm curfew, most of our casinos will be unviable and some will inevitably close with the loss of hundreds, if not thousands, of jobs in the capital as the furlough scheme nears its end.

“By all means address the core issue of drinking rather than slamming a blanket curfew on our venues which would do nothing to suppress the spread of the virus but which would simply sound the death knell for jobs and for famous London casinos.

“Closing our bars rather than our entire casinos would have a more limited impact on our revenues, would protect jobs, preserve the future of casinos and would retain tax receipts for the Treasury.”

Michael Dugher, chief executive of the Betting and Gaming Council (BGC), supported the call.

He said: “It is no exaggeration to say that a blanket 10pm curfew would be devastating for a sector which does more than half of its business after that time and which is still struggling to get back on its feet following the first lockdown and the collapse of tourism.

“The 10pm curfew just risks encouraging young people to mix in households where there is no track and trace and spreading the virus further and faster. 

“But if the London Mayor or government want to close pubs and restaurants at 10pm, we can do that in the casinos too while continuing to provide a best-in-class Covid-secure environment. This might be a sensible compromise.

“The alternative is the prospect of thousands of job losses – both in London and across the UK – and the permanent closure of some of the capital’s most iconic casinos that can help power our much-needed economic recovery.”

Casinos in England were finally allowed to reopen from August 1. Venues introduced a range of safety measures including Perspex screens, sanitisation stations, distancing measures and track and trace systems.

The BGC estimates that London’s casinos sustain 4,000 jobs and contribute £180m a year to the city’s GDP.

The Netherlands imposed a 1am curfew on casinos and slot halls in the regions of Amsterdam-Amstelland, Haaglanden, Hollands Midden, Rijnmond and Utrecht this past weekend. Venues must not admit any new customers after midnight.

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