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Second Covid-19 lockdown forces English gambling venues to close

| By Robert Fletcher
Gambling venues across England will be forced to close from 5 November after Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced the country will enter into a second lockdown as novel coronavirus (Covid-19) surges.
gambling select committee

All non-essential shops, leisure facilities, entertainment venues and personal care facilities will have to shut their doors until at least 3 December, though the government has already warned that the lockdown could be extended beyond this date.

This will include the closure of all casinos, betting shops, gaming arcades and bingo halls across England.

Great Britain entered its lockdown on 23 March and most restrictions remained in place until the start of June. Betting shops in England began to reopen on 15 June, followed by bingo halls from 4 July and finally casinos in mid-August.

The government had previously stated it would not impose a second lockdown across the entire country. It had planned to instead continue to focus on its tiered, regional approach, whereby certain areas of England with very high rates of Covid-19 would be locked down before its U-turn.

The top tier of the three-tier system – which included gambling venues having to close – had already been introduced in a number of regions, including Greater Manchester, Merseyside, Lancashire and South Yorkshire.

Wales had already introduced a short ‘firebreak’ lockdown, which began on 23 October and is due to run until 9 November. This has seen all gambling venues in country temporarily close.

Scotland is yet to announce a second nationwide lockdown, but has implemented a five-level system similar to the English tiered system, which has seen gambling venues close in the areas classed as the most high risk.

Land-based gambling venues in Northern Ireland currently remain open, though venues in the Republic of Ireland are closed until at least 2 December.

France, Germany, Italy, Belgium and the Czech Republic are among the other countries in Europe to have imposed nationwide lockdowns in the past few weeks due to a second wave of Covid-19 across Europe.  

In response to the new lockdowns, GVC Holdings has issued a warning as to how this will impact its business.

Based on the new restrictions, GVC said the English closes could lead to a £27.0m (€29.9m/$34.7m) decline in earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA). Coupled with restrictions in place across Europe, GVC said the overall fall in EBTIDA could reach £37.0m.

If the restrictions were to be extended to all of its outlets in the UK for an entire month, then GVC said this would leave an EBITDA deficit of £34.0m. Though the European decline would be slightly lower at £9.0m, its overall EBITDA deficit based on a month of closure could be as high as £43.0m.

GVC added that the estimates include the benefit of government support where available and other retail cost mitigation.      

“The well-being, safety and security of our colleagues and customers is of paramount importance to us,” GVC said.

“We are following government advice in each area of our operations and are enacting contingency plans to minimise the impact on the business.”

Britain-facing industry group Betting and Gaming Council had previously urged the government not to force gambling venues to close as part of its Covid-19 measures, saying it could lead to mass job losses in the industry.

Last month, its chief executive Michael Dugher wrote to Business Secretary Alok Sharma calling on him to block the closures, but to no avail as the government continued with its regional lockdown approach.  

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