The UK government has announced that English casinos will be able to reopen from tomorrow (15 August) after deciding against further extending the closure order for certain indoor venues in the country.
Casinos in England have been closed since 20 March, days before the UK locked down in response to the novel coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic, but were due to reopen on 1 August in line with the government relaxing certain measures.
However, less than 24 hours before the scheduled reopening, the government announced that this would be delayed for at least two weeks, over concerns of a second spike with cases rising in certain areas of the UK.
The ruling also applied to other indoor venues such as theatres and beauty salons.
The government has now said that it will not extend this closure period and will permit casinos and other indoor venues to reopen from tomorrow, subject to the facilities having the appropriate protection measures in place.
The Betting and Gaming Council (BGC), which beomaned the decision to delay the reopening of casinos, said the resumption of operations is a “welcome relief” to more than 12,000 people employed by the sector. However, it added, the sector faced tough times ahead.
“We regret that it has taken so long for staff to return to work – long after all manner of venues and activities, that don’t have anything like the anti-Covid measures you will see in any casino, were reopened,” BGC chief executive Michael Dugher said
“Given casinos had been cleared by Public Health England as safe to reopen and given we had the strong support of DCMS, who have been steadfast throughout, it was lamentable that our safe businesses had to suffer considerable hurt and expense with a further pointless two week delay.”
He warned that venues still faced an uncertain future, with land-based casinos having lost substantial amounts of money due to the closure period.
Earlier this week, the BGC urged the government to extend its Covid-19 furlough scheme to help safeguard jobs and also protect casino venues.
“The last five months has left many casinos on the brink and the next few months will be particularly crucial to their recovery as the tourism, leisure and hospitality sector slowly gets back on its feet,” he said.
“This sector can play an important part in our national economic recovery and I hope ministers will continue to work closely with the industry to provide support through this difficult period.”
Casinos in Scotland and Wales will remain closed for the time being, though the Scottish government has indicated that such venues will be able to reopen on 24 August. Dugher called on the Welsh government to follow suit.
“Casinos have invested heavily in new Covid safeguards; there can be no justification for further delaying their opening,” he said.
“We continue to urge the Welsh government to fully engage with the sector and seek the reassurances we can provide to bring about the safe reopening of casinos in Wales.”