England’s COVID Curfew is ‘Death Knell’ for Casinos: Industry Body

Posted on: September 23, 2020, 08:13h. 

Last updated on: September 23, 2020, 09:34h.

A 10 p.m. curfew imposed on all leisure facilities across England could “signal the death knell” for its casino industry, according to trade body the Betting and Gaming Council (BGC).

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The BGC’s Michael Dugher believes a compromise should be found to save the casino sector, or the government should dig deep for financial aid. (Image: Jack Taylor/The Times)

Michael Dugher, chief executive of the BGC, said Tuesday that the new anti-coronavirus measures could lead to thousands of job losses for an industry that makes up to 70 percent of its revenues in the hours after 10 p.m.

The 10 p.m. curfew will slash casino incomes by up to 75 percent and likely lead to half their workforce — some 7,000 people — being made redundant,” Dugher said, before calling for emergency financial aid for the industry.

“Without immediate and substantial financial help from the government, perfectly viable casinos — which between them paid £1.3bn in tax to the Treasury in the last three years — will simply go to the wall (fail),” Dugher continued.

The casino sector has only recently reopened on August 15 after enduring a longer lockdown than other sectors.

UK’s Second Wave

Having enjoyed some respite over the summer, the UK is currently in the grip of a second wave of coronavirus. The government’s chief scientific adviser, Sir Patrick Vallance, has said the country could see 50,000 new coronavirus cases a day by mid-October without intervention, which could lead to “200-plus deaths per day” a month after that.

Anxious to avoid a second lockdown, Prime Minister Boris Johnson introduced new “targeted” measures on Tuesday, which included expanded rules on face coverings and an order that venues such as bars, pubs, restaurants, and casinos should close no later than 10 p.m.

The evidence shows that the spread of the disease does tend to happen later at night, when more alcohol has been consumed,” said Johnson, explaining the rationale behind the measures, which could be in place for the next six months. But critics say the move will be ineffective and deeply damaging to the economy.

Former Labour lawmaker Dugher is incensed that the government’s Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport argued that casinos should be exempt from the curfew. They claimed that’s because they have already implemented a host of safety measures as a condition of their August reopening. But Johnson chose to ignore the advice.

Room for Compromise?

Dugher has suggested that a scenario where casinos agree to close their bars and restaurants at 10 p.m. but keep the reels spinning into the night would be a reasonable compromise.

“The 10 p.m. curfew just risks encouraging young people to mix in households, where there is no track and trace, and spreading the virus further and faster,” he said. “But if the London Mayor or Government want to close pubs and restaurants at 10 p.m., we can do that in the casinos, too, while continuing to provide a best-in-class COVID-secure environment. This might be a sensible compromise.

“The alternative is the prospect of thousands of job losses, both in London and across the UK, and the permanent closure of some of the capital’s most iconic casinos that can help power our much-needed economic recovery.”