Casinos in England and other parts of the UK are scrambling to avoid a second lockdown following further threats from the British government.
With COVID-19 cases in the UK rising, casino owners have offered to stop selling alcohol in a bid to avoid suffering a similar fate as pubs and restaurants.
The offer was put to the government via the Betting and Gaming Council. In a letter sent to Members of Parliament and signed by BGC chief Michael Dugher, casino operators made a “last-ditch” plea to avoid being wrapped up in a new wave of closures.
Casinos in England are not Nightclubs
The issue, as described by Dugher, is that members of the gambling industry believe they’re misunderstood by the government. Although all casinos in England and the UK are licensed to sell alcohol, Dugher has made it clear they are not “pseudo-nightclubs.”
The fear is that being categorized alongside pubs and restaurants will lead to further closures in the coming days. Year-on-year revenue is already down by 70% as casinos in England have been forced to close at 10pm since September 25.
Now, the threat of local lockdowns and enhanced restrictions risks having a “catastrophic” impact on the industry.
“We know that the impact [of casinos] on COVID is negligible and they have in fact operated perfectly safely since re-opening in August. There are no public health grounds to order their closure. Nevertheless, they are willing to reduce their risk levels even further by refusing to serve alcohol,” Dugher said in a press statement.
Despite rising tensions across the UK, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has unveiled a local lockdown system. The new rules give regional councils the ability to close down businesses, most notably those in the hospitality sector, if data shows an increase in COVID infections.
Rising Tensions as COVID Uncertainty Continues
The news follows a similar move by Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon. Pubs and restaurants in Scotland were ordered to close for two weeks over fears venues selling alcohol were fueling a rise in COVID cases.
The government has yet to provide evidence this is the case, despite being pressed by journalists. We know that early data from the US showed 67% of people infected with COVID-19 were staying at home.
What’s more, the UK’s track-and-trace shows that only 33 incidents out of 782 were related to food outlets. Whatever the data may or may not show, Boris Johnson is taking a hard line against pubs, restaurants, and casinos.
Venues in Liverpool, including six casinos and dozens of betting shops, will have to close on Wednesday. Under the new system, similar orders may be issued in other parts of the UK in the coming weeks.
The implication of the BGC’s recent letter to MPs is that COVID has become politicized. Members are calling for “reasonable” action to be taken, but nothing more.
Genting has already closed its poker rooms due to UK’s first lockdown. A second shutdown could cause further damage unless casinos can find a way to work within the scope of any new regulations.