The UK’s disparate tier system continues to hamper casinos and betting stores as London prepares to enter another lockdown.
The English capital will go into Tier 3 on Wednesday, following what Secretary of State for Health Matt Hancock has called a “new variant” of COVID-19.
Moving London into the highest tier means all non-essential businesses, including casinos, will shut for the festive period. The move comes as betting stores in Scotland returned to business after another national lockdown.
London Lockdown to Cost Casinos During Festive Period
Hancock told London’s 8.9 million residents that most forms of social interaction in the city will be prohibited from Dec. 16. Per the English government’s Tier-3 rules, people “must not meet socially indoors or in most outdoor places with anybody you do not live with.”
That means casinos across London will have to close just two weeks after coming out of a nationwide lockdown. Two of the capital’s largest casinos, the Empire and the Hippodrome, are trying to remain positive.
In line with government guidance, we will be temporarily closing Empire Casino at 11pm on Tuesday 15 December 2020.
Thank you for your continued loyalty and support. We wish you and your families well during this festive season.
Stay safe! pic.twitter.com/TCagVic57e
— Empire Casino (@EmpireCasino) December 14, 2020
With previous lockdowns costing millions and the holidays approaching, the shutdown will bite.
A statement from our CEO, Simon Thomas. pic.twitter.com/5s45LaauUD
— Hippodrome Casino (@HippodromeLDN) December 15, 2020
There’s been better news for betting operators in Scotland this week.
Although it’s part of the UK, Scotland has a separate COVID tier system to England. As such, many parts of the country were downgraded from Tier 4 to Tier 3 (not the same as England’s Tier 3) last week.
Betting Stores in Scotland Back in Business
The change means that 400 betting stores can reopen and 2,000 people can get back to work. Chief executive of the Betting and Gaming Council, Michael Dugher, welcomed the news and urged the Scottish government to grant casinos the same opportunity in Tier 3 regions.
“[Betting stores] have introduced a range of anti-Covid measures, including Perspex screens, hand sanitizers, and strict social distancing rules, so they are a safe environment for people to work and enjoy a bet. But so have casinos, so they should be able to safely open their doors again as well,” Dugher said last week.
The contrasting restrictions in the UK are a microscopic reflection of the macroscopic problems Europe is facing. Varying infection rates and attitudes toward COVID-19 mean casinos and betting stores are open in some countries, and not others.
Casinos in France are due to reopen today. Casinos in the Czech Republic, including King’s Resort, got back to business earlier this month. In contrast, those in Spain, including Casino Barcelona, remain closed.
2020 has been a tough year for live betting and gaming venues in Europe. London’s casinos will feel the full impact of lockdowns ahead of the festive period and, potentially, leave some in a precarious position heading into 2021.