Casinos and other gambling venues in the U.K now know exactly where they stand in the overall hierarchy of commercial importance. As the nation begins to return to normal following the coronavirus pandemic, commercial activity is being allowed to resume. Leisure and hospitality businesses are the latest to be greenlighted for a return; however, casinos are going to have to wait. That’s right – gambling venues rank lower than septic tank and sewer cleaners.
Across the country, restaurants, bars, movie theaters and other commercial businesses will be back in action as of July 4, as long as they observe a “one-meter (3-foot) plus rule,” according to Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s latest decree. He told lawmakers in the House of Commons that the day marks a new “Independence Day” for the country, adding, “Today we can say that our long national hibernation is beginning to come to an end and life is returning to our streets and to our shops, the bustle is starting to come back and a new but cautious optimism is palpable.”
To be fair, casinos weren’t singled out completely – they share the same fate as swimming pools, nightclubs and indoor gyms. However, the move seems consistent with an overall anti-gambling sentiment that has infected the higher ranks of the U.K government recently. So many restrictions have been placed on the industry that the country is going to wind up missing out on a serious source of revenue just when it needs it the most.
The Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) is baffled by the delays, calling a continued lockdown “nonsensical.” Casinos have been working to adhere to health and safety protocols just like everyone else and, in some cases, have even gone further than what was required. Occupancy and table capacity limits have been put in place, facemasks are going to be mandatory, two-meter (6.5-feet) separations have been instituted between gaming machines and plexiglass dividers are installed where feasible.
That’s apparently not enough to appease the string-pullers, though, and the BGC is miffed. Despite being an annual source of over $375 million to the government’s coffers, the casino industry is being treated like an outcast. The council’s CEO, Michael Dugher, said in a statement after Johnson made his announcement, “[It] is inconsistent and frankly nonsensical that casinos are being forced to remain closed, when other parts of the hospitality and leisure industry are opening up again. Our casino members make a huge contribution to the economy, sustaining thousands of jobs and providing large amounts of much-needed tax revenue to the Treasury.”
He continued, “Casinos have done everything that they were asked to do by the Government and they have pulled out all the stops to ensure they are able to open their doors safely for both staff and customers from 4 July. It is therefore extremely disappointing that the Government has not yet cleared casinos to reopen. We want to urgently work with Ministers to ensure that casinos are reopened safely and as speedily as possible this summer.”