London Casinos Close Again as UK Battles Mutant Coronavirus Strain

Posted on: December 15, 2020, 04:02h. 

Last updated on: December 16, 2020, 01:54h.

London’s casinos will once again shutter, as the city is forced into lockdown by a surge of COVID-19 infections, described as “deeply troubling” this week by Mayor Siddique Khan.

London casinos
London casinos like the Hippodrome (pictured) will be plunged back into lockdown as cases soar in the southeast of England. (Image: Hippodrome Casino)

The casinos had only recently reopened following a monthlong so-called “circuit breaker” lockdown that ended on December 2. Previously, they had been operating under an 11pm curfew, having reopened in August after the country’s initial March lockdown.

But while the industry has railed before against the perceived injustices of lockdown restrictions, there were few voices of dissent Monday. The circuit breaker appeared to have had little effect. Cases are soaring in London and the southeast, where health authorities have identified a new genetic variant of the coronavirus.

‘Spreading More Quickly’

UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock said Monday that the mutated strain is not believed to be more dangerous than previous strains, and is highly unlikely to be resistant to vaccines. But he added that it “appears to be spreading more quickly” and may be responsible for the surge in infections in the region.

At the same time, Hancock announced that from Wednesday, London would be upgraded to tier 3, the highest level of coronavirus restrictions. This prohibits indoor mixing between people not of the same household. And it means pubs, restaurants, and entertainment venues — like casinos and bingo halls — must close.

It also means that London soccer grounds must once again close their terraces to fans. A restricted number had been allowed into the grounds to watch live games from December 2 onwards for the first time since March.

Surprisingly, bookmaking shops can remain open, provided restrictions are in place, including limits on customers, the removal of chairs, and a ban on live sports broadcasts to stop gamblers congregating.

Permanent Closures

The past nine months have been brutal for the UK’s casino industry. The Betting and Gaming Council said in October that lockdowns and curfews had left the land-based gaming sector down 70 percent when compared to the same point in 2019.

In July, Genting, one of the UK’s biggest casino operators, said it planned to lay off more than 1,600 workers and permanently close its Margate, Torquay, and Bristol properties after battling losses caused by the UK’s first national lockdown.

At the same time, Caesars Entertainment UK announced that its Rendezvous Casino Southend would also close permanently because of the financial pressures of the coronavirus.