Industry standards body the Betting and Gaming Council has warned that a mooted 10pm curfew for casinos in Great Britain could put thousands of jobs in the industry at risk without significantly slowing the spread of novel coronavirus (Covid-19) as intended.
The curfew, reportedly being considered by the government in order to limit the spread of the virus would see casinos as well as pubs forced to close early, a measure the BGC described as “drastic”.
In a letter to Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden, BGC chief executive Michael Dugher (pictured) and Genting UK boss Paul Wilcock said the move could potentially lead to “thousands” of the UK’s 14,000 casino employees losing their jobs. In July, Genting UK announced that 1,642 jobs across its properties were at risk of redundancy as a result of disruption caused by the pandemic.
“The introduction of a blanket measure such as curfews would certainly result in many thousands of redundancies in a very short timeframe,” Dugher and Wilcock wrote. “It is no exaggeration to state that it would devastate the UK land-based casino sector.”
Dugher added that the rule could potentially lead to many casinos closing permanently. The BGC has previously warned of permanent closures of casinos over delays in reopening and “outdated” payment laws for foreign customers, as well as permanent closures of betting shops if business rates relief systems were not extended to the sector.
“We support the need to act swiftly to protect public health, and thank the Government for the support they have given the UK’s casinos so far,” he said. “However, a blanket 10pm curfew on businesses would be catastrophic and force casinos to close once again – this time for good.”
The letter added that a curfew at casinos was unlikely to have a strong effect towards the intended goal of limiting the spread of Covid-19. It cited measures in place at the venues, including limits on capacity, screens between players and track and trace systems as reasons why spread from casinos should be low and noted that Public Health England and the Department for Health and Social Care said casinos were not “higher risk” in July.
“The conclusion to draw is that the impact of a casino curfew on Covid numbers would be negligible but the impact on our businesses would be catastrophic,” it said. “To ensure the sector’s survival it is vital that any additional Covid social distancing measures, such as curfews, are not imposed on businesses that have demonstrated that they are Covid-secure and do not cater for the age group targeted by the measure.”
Dugher echoed this sentiment and said anti-pandemic measures need to be more targeted towards the greatest sources of risk.
“It would certainly result in many thousands of redundancies, while having a negligible impact on the spread of Covid,” he said. “Since reopening In August, casinos have been able to protect customers and staff through providing best in class safety measures, including sophisticated track and trace systems.”
“Any new social distancing measures should be focused on the areas and age groups of the country at most risk, not just arbitrarily applied across the board.”
In addition, the letter also called on the Government to either extend the UK’s furlough scheme or introduce other targeted support for businesses, as it said casinos were not operating at a high enough capacity yet to support full employment.