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BGC warns of impact of new Scottish restrictions

| By Richard Mulligan
New Covid-19 restrictions placed on Scotland’s hospitality sector have been described as a “huge blow” to the country’s casinos by the Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) industry standards body.

Rules announced yesterday (Wednesday) by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon restrict all licensed indoor hospitality premises across the country from opening after 6pm for a 16-day period from 6pm tomorrow (Friday).

In five health board areas – including Scotland’s most populous cities, Glasgow and Edinburgh – all licensed premises and casinos will be required to close for the period. Some 3.2 million people – more than half of Scotland’s population – live within the five areas.

The Scottish Government said the rules have been imposed in reaction to more than 1,000 new positive test results for the novel coronavirus (Covid-19) in a single day. Acknowledging the impact of the restrictions, the First Minister announced a new £40m support fund for business to run alongside the existing UK Job Retention Scheme.

Reacting to the new rules, a BGC spokesperson said: “This news will come as a huge blow to casinos in Scotland, which only reopened their doors in August and who have been trying to rebuild their businesses since then.

“However, we welcome the First Minister’s announcement of financial help for the hospitality sector, and call on the Scottish Government to ensure it gets to the businesses that need it most – including casinos – as quickly as possible.”

The BGC has previously noted that the UK’s Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport had argued casinos should be exempt from the restrictions, with the facilities having put in place a host of measures to ensure the safety of staff and customers prior to reopening on 15 August.

Explaining the new restrictions, Ms Sturgeon said: “The need for action is highlighted by today’s figures and, more fundamentally, in the evidence paper published today. To try to interrupt this trajectory, we must act now. While the measures will feel like a backward step, they are in the interests of protecting our progress overall.

“It is by taking the tough but necessary action now that we hope to avoid even tougher action in future.”

Last month the BGC called on the UK Government to establish an “urgent economic package” to support the casino sector after warning the introduction of a 10pm curfew on all leisure facilities, including casinos, could lead to 50% of workers losing their jobs. Prime Minister Boris Johnson warned that the measures could be in place for up to six months.

BGC chief executive Michael Dugher said the Prime Minister may have “signalled the death knell for the casino industry”, criticising the government for including casinos – which do up to 70% of their trade after 10pm – in the list of businesses impacted by the curfew.

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