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UK casinos offer to stop alcohol sales to avoid closures

| By Daniel O'Boyle
British land-based casinos have offered to stop selling alcohol in order to remain open as hospitality venues face the risk of closure in an effort to limit the spread of the novel coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic next week.
Michael Dugher

The Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) announced the move in a letter from chief executive Michael Dugher (pictured) to each of the UK’s MPs, with the BGC warning that enforced closures would be “catastrophic” for the industry and could lead to thousands of job losses.

The industry standards body said it expects Prime Minister Boris Johnson to implement a three-tier system of local lockdowns, where hospitality venues, including casinos, could be forced to close in areas where infection rates are high.

Dugher said in his letter that such a measure applying to casinos would be based on “no public health grounds” as he believed casinos have proved that they can operate safely.

“Casinos have already proved, thanks to their world class track and trace systems, the use of Perspex screens, hand sanitisers and strict social distancing rules, that they are Covid-secure according to Public Health England,” Dugher said.

“There are relatively few casinos, we know that their impact on Covid is negligible and they have in fact operated perfectly safely since re-opening in August. There are no public health grounds to order their closure now.”

The BGC said that closures would be “disastrous for a sector already reeling from the effects of the first lockdown earlier this year”. It added that the combined effects of lockdowns and a 10pm curfew implemented last month has meant UK land-based casino revenue is currently down 70% compared to the same point in 2019.

Dugher added that casinos would stop serving alcohol in order to show that they should not be classed with pubs and clubs.

“Ministers need to understand that casinos are not pseudo-nightclubs or places where young people go to drink,” Dugher said. “Nevertheless, they are willing to reduce their risk levels even further by refusing to serve alcohol, which the Government seems to think is another factor in the spread of the virus.

“In light of all of this, I would urge ministers to be reasonable and allow casinos to remain safely open and continue to play their part in raising desperately-needed tax revenues for the Treasury, whilst also stopping the spread of the coronavirus.”

The news follows Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announcement that Scotland would restrict all licensed indoor hospitality premises across the country from opening after 6pm for a 16-day period from 6pm, while all licensed premises and casinos in five health board areas – including Scotland’s most populous cities, Glasgow and Edinburgh – would be required to close. The BGC described this measure as a “huge blow” to the Scottish casino industry.

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