he UK Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) warned Tuesday that over 100 casinos, including emblematic venues such as Les Ambassadeurs in Mayfair and the London Hippodrome, are at risk of permanently shutting down if they don’t receive more government support. The industry standards body is calling for an extension of the government’s furlough scheme as casinos are facing an additional £14 million bill following the government’s backtracking on opening, which puts 6,000 jobs at risk, half the number supported by the sector.
Casinos, bowling alleys and ice rinks were due to reopen on August 1, but UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson decided to keep them closed after a spike in cold cases. A review is expected to take place this week, but venues are still in the dark, and need to prepare if they’re to welcome back customers this weekend.
Casinos contribute over £300 million every year to the UK tourism economy. The BGC said that for every week that casinos remain closed, the costs to casinos are mounting as the Government tapers the furlough scheme and forces companies to pay National Insurance and pension contributions for staff, even though they remain closed.
We hope the Government provides clarity this week on the reopening of casinos. The uncertainty doesn't just hurt the bottom line - it affects people's lives. Our hard working staff want to go back to work and casinos have invested heavily to ensure they are Covid-secure. pic.twitter.com/9ApK26Gwog— Betting and Gaming Council (@BetGameCouncil) August 12, 2020
Casinos have invested to ensure their venues are COVID-secure, with measures such as perspex screens, sanitisation equipment and sophisticated track and trace systems, as well as strict social distancing measures and hygiene protocols.
They were given the green light to reopen on 1 August by Public Health England after officials physically visited a London casino to see for themselves the safety measures put in place by casino operators. The decision to reopen was announced by the Prime Minister on 17th July only to be reversed on 31st July, just 12 hours before operators were due to open. The sector is believed to have spent £6 million readying to reopen, according to the BGC.
BGC Chief Executive Michael Dugher said: “World famous and iconic venues like the Hippodrome and Les Ambassadeurs are not just part of our proud past, they want to be part of economic revival in the future. They are not looking for a hand out – they are looking to help out. By reopening safely so they can play their part in contributing to getting the economy moving again and to contributing vital tax revenues to the Exchequer. Some of Britain’s most iconic casinos, who attract high spending visitors from around the world, are sitting idle whilst pubs and restaurants round the corner are open and doing a roaring trade.”