Thousands of jobs in the UK’s casino sector would be lost if 10pm curfews were imposed on businesses in an attempt to tackle Covid-19, the Betting and Gaming Council has warned.
Central government and local authorities are considering the drastic measure, which would see venues across the country forced to close their doors.
In a letter to Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden, BGC chief executive Michael Dugher and Genting UK boss Paul Wilcock say such a move would “devastate” casinos, which do between 50 and 70 per cent of their trade after 10pm.
Britain’s casinos – which employ 14,000 people and have contributed £1.3bn in tax to the Treasury over the last three years – only re-opened in August after closing in March as part of the country-wide coronavirus lockdown.
They have been praised for their stringent anti-Covid measures, such as limits on capacity, Perspex screens and sophisticated track and trace systems, with Public Health England and the Department for Health and Social Care declaring casinos were not “higher risk” in July.
In their letter, Mr Dugher and Mr Wilcock point out that a typical casino visitor is aged 48, well above the age profile that ministers and councillors would be trying to target with the imposition of a curfew.
Furthermore, groups of young adults do not tend to gather in casinos to drink after 10pm, with venues vowing to take action to actively prevent it.
The letter says: “To ensure the sector’s survival it is vital that any additional Covid social distancing measures, such as curfews, are not imposed on businesses that have demonstrated that they are Covid-secure and do not cater for the age group targeted by the measure.
“The introduction of a blanket measure such as curfews would certainly result in many thousands of redundancies in a very short timeframe. It is no exaggeration to state that it would devastate the UK land-based casino sector.”
It goes on: “The conclusion to draw is that the impact of a casino curfew on Covid numbers would be negligible but the impact on our businesses would be catastrophic.”
With attendances at casinos at between 5 and 60% of pre-Covid levels, the letter also urges the Government to either extend the furlough scheme – which is due to end next month – or introduce other targeted support for businesses trying to get back on their feet.
Michael Dugher said: “We support the need to act swiftly to protect public health, and thank the Government for the support they have given the UK’s casinos so far.
“However, a blanket 10pm curfew on businesses would be catastrophic and force casinos to close once again – this time for good. It would certainly result in many thousands of redundancies, while having a negligible impact on the spread of Covid.
“Since reopening In August, casinos have been able to protect customers and staff through providing best in class safety measures, including sophisticated track and trace systems. Any new social distancing measures should be focused on the areas and age groups of the country at most risk, not just arbitrarily applied across the board.”