Some Casinos in England to Reopen, Regional Lockdowns Return

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British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has announced that England will come out of its national lockdown and move back into a tiered system beginning on Dec. 3.

Casino open
Some casinos in England will reopen after Dec. 2, but the outlook remains bleak for many. (Image: Concord Monitor/Geoff Forester)

The announcement marks the return to a policy previously dismissed as ineffective by the government, but which is returning amid mounting pressure from members of parliament and the general public.

When the national lockdown (in place since Nov. 5) comes to an end, casinos and betting shops in certain tiers will be allowed to reopen.

Casinos in England Make Last-Ditch Bid for Freedom

Ahead of Johnson’s Nov. 23 announcement, members of the Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) offered to make more concessions than required.

In letters to letters to Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove and Health Secretary Matt Hancock, casino operators said they would implement more safety features. Their aim was to facilitate the reopening of casinos and betting shops, even in areas under the tightest COVID restrictions.

Prior to the current national lockdown, all non-essential businesses in Tier 3 regions, including casinos and betting shops, had to close. Venues in Tier 1 and 2 regions remained open.

The latest plea from BGC members called for all venues to remain open, regardless of location.

“The unprecedented offer came as it emerged that six casinos have closed their doors for good this year, with one operator forced to cut its workforce by more than 40%,” reads a BGC press statement.

Among the self-restrictions proposed, casinos in England offered to stop selling alcohol and close off all table games. This would mean only soft drinks and slots were available in Tier 3 regions.

COVID Restrictions Lifted for Some

The offer, like many others, has fallen on deaf ears. Casinos and betting shops in Tier 3 regions won’t be allowed to open, even if they implement their own restrictions following Johnson’s announcement.

For venues in Tier 1 and Tier 2 regions, it will be business, but not quite as usual. Social distancing measures must remain in place, and casinos and betting shops will have to close at 11pm.

Members of the industry are now waiting to find out which tier each region in England will be assigned.

The one glimmer of light in an otherwise dull forecast is the fact crowds can return to sporting events. In Tier 1, outdoor events such as horse racing can host 50% of a venue’s capacity, up to a maximum of 4,000 people (2,000 in Tier 2).

Similarly, indoor events can have up to 1,000 spectators, despite the fact people aren’t allowed to socialize with others inside their own homes.

Ministers will review the tier system every 14 days. This means regions can be moved in and out of various tiers at the government’s will until March 2021.

Given the crippling blow restrictions have dealt to the live gaming sector this year, simply surviving the next four months will be a challenge.

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