No Vaccine Passports for Casinos in England, Says UK Health Minister

Posted on: September 15, 2021, 04:39h. 

Last updated on: September 15, 2021, 11:37h.

Casinos in England breathed a collective sigh of relief, as the government ditched a plan to introduce mandatory vaccine passports for those entering crowded leisure venues — for now.

Vaccine passports
Casinos like the Hippodrome in London’s Leicester Square, seen above, have opposed the concept of vaccine passports. (Image: The Hippodrome Casino)

UK Health Minister Sajid Javid said the government could revisit the idea if COVID-19 cases rise exponentially in the late fall or winter months.

The U-turn came amid opposition to the plan from many lawmakers in the ruling Conservative Party. They argued the passports would place an unjust burden on businesses and infringe civil liberties.

The concept of vaccine passports does not sit comfortably in the UK, where residents are not required to carry identification documents.

However, officials in Scotland and Wales, which have a degree of autonomy over health policy issues, are keeping their options open. Scotland, where cases are higher, still plans to introduce proof of vaccination for entry into certain venues from Oct. 1. There are currently no such plans in Northern Ireland, which has no casinos.

‘Sharp End’ of Pandemic

The health minister’s decision was praised by Michael Kill, CEO of the Night-Time Industries Association (NTIA), which campaigns for recognition and stability for the UK night-time economy.

“We hope that businesses will now be able to plan for the future with some degree of certainty, regain confidence from customers and the workforce, and start to rebuild a sector that has consistently been at the sharp end of this pandemic,” Kill said in a statement.

Nighttime industries like casinos and nightclubs were among the hardest-hit by the pandemic in the UK, which had one of the world’s longest and most stringent lockdowns.

These businesses have been among the last to emerge during phased reopenings of the economy.  Several casinos failed to emerge at all and have closed permanently.

Open for All

UK casinos like the Hippodrome in London’s Leicester Square have been signatories to the “Open for All” charter. While praising the benefits of the vaccine rollout, the signatories oppose entrants to their venues having to show proof of medical records or health status. They assert they have no political ax to grind.

There are many practical and logistical issues for us, alongside civil liberty and discrimination considerations more broadly for society, if venues or events insist on seeing any kind of health-related documents,” reads the charter.

Several European countries, such as France, Italy, and Germany, have already introduced vaccine passports or proof of a negative test as a requirement to get into certain venues, such as bars and nightclubs, although the rules vary from state to state.

In the US, cities including New York, San Francisco, and New Orleans have introduced vaccine requirements to enter places like indoor restaurants or theaters. But US health officials have said that it is not the role of the federal government to mandate vaccine passports.