UK industry standards body the Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) has warned the government that its decision to delay the reopening of English casinos by at least two weeks could see up to 6,000 people lose their jobs.
English casinos were due to reopen on Saturday (1 August) after being closed for more than four months due to the novel coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic, but the government on Friday (31 July) announced such facilities would not be able to resume operations until 15 August at the earliest.
The government said that the decision was due to concerns over an increase in positive Covid-19 cases, with other venues such as bowling alleys and indoor theatres also forced to remain closed for at least another two weeks.
BGC chief executive Michael Dugher expressed his “utter dismay” at the decision. He noted that casinos had spent millions of pounds preparing to reopen on 1 August and bringing back furloughed staff, only to be told the day before that this would not go ahead.
English casinos have put in place measures such as perspex screens, sanitisation equipment and track and trace systems, as well as introducing social distancing measures and hygiene protocols, to ensure a safe environment.
Dugher, who last week wrote to Chancellor Rishi Sunak to outline his concerns about the delay, said the costs of reopening on 1 August, including taking staff off furlough, training, security and food and beverage, was £6m (€6.7m/$7.9m). However, for every week that casinos stay closed, it costs the industry over £5m.
“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,” Dugher said
“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.”
Dugher’s concerns were reflected by a number of land-based casino operators, including Genting Casino, warned it needs to make “heart breaking decisions” about the future of its business, with job losses “simply unavoidable”.
Rank Group, which employs 4,600 across its Grosvenor Casino business, said it also faces tough decisions in the coming weeks unless the government provides assurances on reopening. Rank also urged the Chancellor to consider extending furlough support, with employers now having to pay National Insurance and pension contributions.
“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,” Dugher said.
“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.”