ast Friday, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that in order to keep the coronavirus under control, the government has decided to postpone some of the changes they were hoping to make in August, which included the reopening of gambling venues on August 1st.
"On Saturday 1 August, you’ll remember, we had hoped to reopen in England a number of higher-risk settings that had remained closed," the Primer Minister announced. "Today, I am afraid we are postponing these changes for at least a fortnight."
"Casinos, bowling alleys, skating rinks, and remaining close contact services must remain closed. Indoor performances will not resume."
See Boris Johnson's full statement on coronavirus (COVID-19) dated July 31.
According to the industry standards body —The Betting and Gaming Council (BGC)— the Government’s last-minute reversal of plans has dealt a wrecking ball to the industry, from which it may never recover.
The BGC warns that up to 6,000 jobs may be permanently lost – half the number supported by the sector, Politics Home reports.
In a letter to Chancellor Rishi Sunak MP on Friday 31st July, the BGC described the decision to keep casinos closed as “highly illogical, inconsistent and deeply damaging to those businesses and the thousands of staff they employ.”
The cost of preparing for reopening on 1st August, including taking staff off furlough, training, security and food and beverage, is believed to be around £6 million. For every week that casinos remain closed, it costs the industry over £5 million.
There is also a significant cost to the UK Treasury, with the cost of furlough and lost tax receipts hitting the public purse to the tune of £10 million per week.
The casino sector employs more than 14,000 people across the UK (12,000 jobs in England) in 125 casinos and a further 4,000 in the supply chain. Casinos also paid over £300 million each year in tax before the lock down.
However, operators have warned of permanent damage to the sector as a result of bearing the costs of closure, with many now fearing for their survival.
Genting Casino, which employs over 4,000 people in the UK, has already warned it needs to make “heartbreaking decisions” about the future of the business, with job losses now “simply unavoidable.”
Rank Group, whose Grosvenor Casino business employs over 4,600 people, also faces some very tough decisions in the coming weeks unless the Government provides assurances on reopening, with the Chancellor’s decision to taper furlough payments and force employers to pay National Insurance and pension contributions weighing heavily on decision making within the industry.
The BGC has also rejected the Prime Minister’s categorization of casinos as “higher risk” during his Downing Street briefing. Casinos have spent weeks and invested millions of pounds to ensure their premises are covid-secure, with measures such as perspex screens, sanitization equipment, and sophisticated track and trace systems, as well as introducing strict social distancing measures and hygiene protocols.
BGC Chief Executive Michael Dugher said:
“The Government are swinging a wrecking ball right through the middle of our industry and large scale job losses, which ought to be unnecessary and avoidable, now look inevitable unless ministers act fast”.
“Casinos are a small but fundamental part of our leisure, hospitality, entertainment and tourism industry. They employ over 14,000 people across the UK and indirectly support another 4,000 jobs in the supply sector, and last year casinos paid over £5.7 million in tax per week.
“The ongoing cost of remaining in a holding pattern to reopen is clearly not sustainable, with more jobs and livelihoods being put at risk with every last minute change and delay to reopening.
“The Job Retention Scheme has helped but our members will now be forced to pay National Insurance and pension contributions on top of salaries in August while they remain closed. As furlough payments are phased out, there will be no flexibility for casinos to adapt to the new working and leisure environment and I now fear that many thousands of jobs could be lost.
“We made the all necessary preparations for safe reopening and we were given the green light by Public Health England on the basis of the significant investment made by operators, and having been told by the Government themselves that casinos posed a ‘negligible’ risk compared with the tens of thousands of other places that they have been reopened.