UK Casino & Betting Shops Return: COVID-19 versus Gambling Regulation

The UK Betting and Gaming Council (BGC)

In late February, the BGC called for reopening betting shops and Casino’s once the UK began to exit the current nationwide lockdown.

More than 44,000 UK residents are employed through Casino’s and betting shops, giving the council a favourable argument to reopen with other businesses. The BGC can only assist the post-lockdown economic recovery if they can reopen as the other sectors will.

The body states that betting retailers should reopen in unison with non-essential retailers, whilst casinos should start-up alongside restaurants, pubs, and clubs within the hospitality sector.

“As the vaccine rollout continues and the country begins to emerge from lockdown, it is important that businesses can plan effectively for reopening,” said Michael Dugher, Chief Executive of the Betting and Gaming Council.

Betting shops must be allowed to reopen alongside other non-essential retail. Last summer, when most betting shops were able to open, they showed that they have the best0in-class anti-COVID measures compared to any other part of the high street to protect customers and staff. Ministers must allow them to play their role in stimulating the high street and other non-essential retailers.

“Likewise, casinos are eager to help Britain get back on their feet. The night-time economy has taken a hammering during the pandemic, and draconian restrictions, including the 1-pm curfew, have made a difficult situation more desperate for many businesses.”, Dugher added.

The Big Announcement

A week following the BGC’s public statement, betting shops in England are now set to reopen on April 12th, with adult gaming centres, bingo halls and casinos scheduled to follow on May 17th. The UK government’s plan to reopen the economy.

The UK’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced his plans for the country last week, including an announcement for the economy restart starting March 8th. The speech itself did not mention casinos, betting shops, bingo halls or gaming centres.

With that said, a Downing Street spokesperson confirmed that betting shops would open in the second stage – starting on April 12th. Simultaneously, the remaining sectors of gaming/entertainment will all open in stage three – expected to begin on May 17th.

Betting/Gambling legislation is problematic for casinos without a worldwide pandemic, so the mood of gambling commissions this week has been festive.

The Good News, Or Is It?

Whilst the betting and gaming industry prepares for its return, Simon Thomas, CEO of Hippodrome Casino, does not sound utterly confident in the government: “The government has spoken! So, it’s with cautious optimism that I can announce that we will reopen on Monday, May 17th.

“You can imagine how delighter we all are, and in the next few weeks, we’ll be finishing off the work we’ve undertaken while we’ve been closed. There’s a brand-new casino floor in the gods high up on the fifth floor, a new poker deck with many more tables, and other improvements to make us bigger, better and busier.”

“Keep an eye on our social media in the days to come for news of a raft of special entertainment outdoors on the new terrace, the return of Magic Mike London, menu updates in Heliot Steak House and much more. Till we meet again…stay safe, happy and well. We’ll see you in a few weeks.”

Johnson insisted that reopening must be a one-way road, with the aim of no reintroduction of restrictions once they are lifted.
While the rules apply for England only, the Prime Minister has vowed his local governs are working with Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland on the lifting of restrictions.

The coronavirus has taken its toll on the gaming industry public sector whilst booming in its online services; the national lockdown has impacted gambling at home. Commissions involved with online services won’t have many complaints, whereas casino owners and betting services that work with the public have been financially affected for close to a year.

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