UK casinos ‘standing by’ to aid economic recovery

Casinos have said they are “standing by” to aid the UK’s economic recovery – but must be allowed to re-open their doors again later this month.

The venues have been closed since March as part of the national effort to slow the spread of Covid-19.

They were dealt a blow when the Government announced they would not be allowed to open again on 4 July, unlike other parts of the hospitality, leisure and entertainment industry.

That was despite casinos introducing all of the anti-Covid measures required, including perspex screens, hand sanitisers, sophisticated track and tracing systems and strict social distancing rules.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak has announced that businesses in the hospitality and tourism sector are to benefit from a cut in VAT from 20% to 5% until 12 January.

Michael Dugher, chief executive of the Betting and Gaming Council, welcomed the move – as well as Mr Sunak’s £1,000 job retention bonus for companies that bring staff back off furlough.

But he said the Government’s next move must be to let casinos re-open their doors and start contributing again to the UK economy.

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Mr Dugher said: “We strongly welcomed the introduction of the furlough scheme in March, and the Chancellor’s decision to extend it until the end of October, as a lifeline for our members in the leisure, entertainment and hospitality industries and the tens of thousands of people they employ.

“The announcement of a £1,000 job retention bonus for every furloughed worker brought back and continuously employed through to January is therefore good news and will help our members as they navigate their way out of lockdown.

“The Chancellor’s decision to cut VAT for the hospitality and tourism sectors from 20% to 5% for the next six months will potentially be an enormous boost for bingo halls and casinos.

“However, in order to take advantage of this new policy, casinos must be given the green light to re-open as quickly as possible in July. At the moment, casinos are costing the Exchequer around £5 million a week while they are closed. Last year, they paid £5.7 million a week in tax.

“Casinos are part of our hospitality, leisure and entertainment industries, and they are also a significant attraction for tourists. They can reopen safely and it’s time now to let them do so. Casinos are standing by to reopen to aid the economic recovery”.