Poker news | Aug 14, 2020
UK Casinos Stay Closed in Shocking Last Second Decision
By RTR Dennis
Casinos throughout the UK were supposed to reopen at the beginning of August. However, they remain closed after the national government nixed the reopening plans.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson delivered the bad news to the casino gambling industry. Johnson notes that the country needs to put the “brakes on” regarding gradual easing of COVID-19 restrictions.
He explained the decision in his recent speech on the matter:
"On Saturday 1 August, you’ll remember, we had hoped to reopen in England a number of higher-risk settings that had remained closed. 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."
Losses Continue Mounting for UK Casino Industry
As with other countries, UK businesses have been forced to deal with restrictions resulting from the coronavirus. Casinos are certainly no exception to this situation.
Operators had to shut down in late March to help stop the pandemic from spreading. They’ve been losing considerable amounts of money ever since.
For example, the Rank Group (of Grosvenor fame) has been losing £10 million every month since closing their casinos down.
Rank and other casino owners got good news when the government announced that they’d be able to reopen on August 1. This announcement came with recommendations on safety guidelines (e.g. masks) and social-distancing policies.
Everything seemed set for land-based casinos to get back to business as usual. But Johnson surprised many industry figureheads when he decided that casinos and other types of businesses shouldn’t reopen just yet.
Boris Johnson Draws Criticisms for Decision
One reason why the government originally felt comfortable opening casinos back up was due to decreasing COVID-19 numbers. However, cases are rising again and forcing certain parts of the UK to go back into lockdown. Northern cities aren’t even allowed to attend church or visit their friends and families.
Close to 700 UK residents get the coronavirus each week. This number is up from the 500 weekly average from just a few weeks ago. However, the death rates have fallen dramatically within recent times. 30-40 people are dying from “symptoms associated” with the virus per day.
The Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) has been quite critical of Johnson in the aftermath of the announcement. Michael Dugher, Chief Executive of the BGC, believes that the government’s decision will have long-lasting consequences for the gambling industry.
“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,” says Dugher
“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.”
Dugher also notes that the gambling industry did all they could to abide by the government’s recommendations. Even still, they still won’t be able to open land-based locations.
“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.”
When Will UK Casinos Be Allowed to Open Again?
The government is now targeting a late-August reopening date for the industry. They’ll re-evaluate the situation by then and decide whether casinos can safely operate without spreading the virus.
But as the most-recent decision shows, nothing is given with regard to casinos opening again. Much will depend upon how the numbers look once late August rolls around.
Until then, online gaming sites remain the only viable option for UK casino gamblers. The internet gaming industry has thrived more than usual in the absence of brick-and-mortar gambling.