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GB casinos call for government support to prop up sector

| By Aaron Noy
British casino operators have called on Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak to provide financial support to help protect thousands of jobs they say are at risk across the industry due to new novel coronavirus (Covid-19) measures.

This week, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced a series of measures to slow further spread of Covid-19, including a 10pm daily curfew for all leisure facilities, effective from today (24 September).

Venues, including casinos, that fail to comply with the new measures could face financial penalties and potentially being shut down. The restrictions could be in place for up to six months, depending on the ongoing Covid-19 situation in the UK.

However, casino operators said that as up to 70% of their trade is conducted after the 10pm curfew, this will have a significant impact on their operations, and could in turn lead to mass job loses across the market.

The Chancellor is due to make a statement later today about the government’s plans to protect works over the winter months, and ahead of this, casino bosses have called for a “generous package of measures” to help keep them in business.

Among these recommendations is for the Chancellor to extend the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, which, introduced in March, has allowed businesses to place workers on furlough, with the government contributing heavily to their wages during this period.

However, this scheme is due to conclude on 31 October and the government has so far refused to commit to an extension. The Prime Minister this week said that the government would continue to help businesses, but stopped short of setting out its plans in detail.

Casino operators also said the Chancellor should consider other taxpayer-backed initiatives to help businesses remain open and viable, and thus allow them to continue to pay taxes.

UK industry standards body the Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) has thrown its support behind the effort, with chief executive Michael Dugher calling for urgent support.

“The Chancellor must implement an urgent economic package which enables casinos to stay open and protect jobs so that, when the pandemic is over, they can play their part in getting the British economy back on its feet,” Dugher said.

Dugher’s comments come after the BGC this week criticised the government’s decision to include casinos in the businesses subject to the curfew, describing the new measures as the “death knell for the casino industry”.

He said that casinos have already demonstrated that they are Covid-19 secure by putting in place a host of measures prior to reopening on 15 August, but are still being made to close early.

This, Dugher said, could lead to 50% of people working in the casino industry losing their jobs, as casinos will be hit by the early closure requirements.

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