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BGC hits out at “absurd” Scottish casino reopening schedule

| By Daniel O'Boyle
The Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) has called for casinos to open alongside other hospitality venues in Scotland, after a report from hygiene expert Dr Lisa Acklerley said there was “no logical or scientific reason” for the distinction.
Michael Dugher

Ackerley’s report is based on evidence from Food Alert and examined venues including Grosvenor Casino locations in Edinburgh and Glasgow.

Although casinos may reopen at the same time as pubs and restaurants in England, with the earliest possible reopening date set for 17 May, in Scotland, pubs and restaurants may reopen in regions under level three, but casinos must wait until regions reach level two.

However, in the report, Ackerly said casinos appear to be safer than hospitality venues such as pubs and restaurants.

“The casino industry has responded to the Covid-19 pandemic by embracing the need to implement a full range of stringent measures to keep staff and customers safe,” Acklerley said. “In my opinion, this industry’s response has resulted in it being as safe, if not safer, during the pandemic than many others, for example some other parts of the hospitality sector, where socialising and alcohol consumption is the norm.

“I find that there is no reason for the casino industry to be treated more harshly in terms of lockdown measures than the rest of hospitality; in fact, it can be seen that the measures taken by casinos actually offer more protection to staff and the public. 

“There seems no logical or scientific reason why the casino industry should be closed where pubs and restaurants are allowed to open in Scotland.”

Jonathon Swaine, managing director of Grosvenor Casinos, said the Scottish Government should change its reopening plans in order to treat casinos and other hospitality businesses similarly.

“Dr Ackerley’s findings provide objective, scientific evidence that casinos have been treated unfairly and the time has come for the correction to be made,” Swaine said. 

“It clearly concludes that forcing casinos to remain closed in level 2 regions, whilst other hospitality businesses can open, is absurd.

“We’re now appealing to the First Minister and the Scottish government to pay heed to this compelling evidence. When parts of the country return to level 2 status, casinos must be allowed to open and the industry deserves to be treated with parity and fairness. 

“All we ask is for an equitable approach to hospitality, based on the highest quality evidence that exists.”

BGC chief executive Michael Dugher said the restriction would cause unnecessary harm to those who work in the casino industry.

“Ordering the closure of casinos in level 2 areas in Scotland was a needless blow for the 700 hardworking men and women that they employ,” Dugher said.

The BGC chief added that members of the Scottish Government had not visited any BGC casinos to see how the venues were working to limit the spread of the virus.

“Despite repeated invitations, it is regrettable that no Scottish Government official has even visited any of our members’ casinos to see for themselves the excellent anti-Covid measures which they have put in place.

 “As Dr Ackerley’s report confirms, casinos are as safe, if not safer, than many other hospitality venues, such as pubs and restaurants, so why are they being treated differently? In England, casinos will be rightly safely reopened when the rest of the hospitality is.

 “It is not too late for the Scottish government to think again, follow the evidence and allow casinos to safely re-open in Level 2.”

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