Liverpool casinos will be the first victims of the U.K. government’s tougher stance towards COVID restrictions. From the 14th October all casinos and betting shops in the Merseyside area will be forced into a temporary closure to slow the spread of COVID.
Prime Minister Boris Johnston announced a three-tier system for restrictions, depending on the risk of transmission in the area. The Liverpool area falls into the top tier risk of infection, meaning all tier three areas will be under a temporary closure order until October 25th at the earliest.
Prime Minister Boris Johnston was forced to defend the restrictions during his address to the U.K. parliament. “This is not how we want to live our lives, but this is the narrow path we must tread between the social and economic trauma of a full lockdown and the massive human and economic cost of an uncontained epidemic,” he said.
In a statement on their website, the Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) urged the government to consider the implications of temporary closures:
“Casinos want to return as quickly as possible to a situation where they are generating revenues for the Treasury rather than relying on their financial support. But in the event of further closures, they will inevitably be taking advantage of the Chancellor’s latest announcement, which will provide some comfort to thousands of staff who remain fearful for their jobs.”
The casino industry in the U.K. has struggled since re-opening in August, with profits down by as much as 70% from 12 months ago, according to the Betting and Gaming Council (BGC).
BGC Chief Executive Michael Dugher has written to U.K. members of parliament asking for their support. “Casinos have already proved, thanks to their world-class track and trace systems, the use of Perspex screens, hand sanitisers and strict social distancing rules, that they are COVID-secure according to Public Health England,” Mr Dugher said.
“There are relatively few casinos, we know that their impact on COVID is negligible and they have in fact operated perfectly safely since re-opening in August. There are no public health grounds to order their closure now. Ministers need to understand that casinos are not pseudo-nightclubs or places where young people go to drink. Nevertheless, they are willing to reduce their risk levels even further by refusing to serve alcohol, which the Government seems to think is another factor in the spread of the virus,” he added.
The offer from U.K casinos comes after Scotland forced the casino industry into a COVID shutdown. Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced tough new restrictions that will force closures on hospitality venues in a bid to stop the spread of COVID-19.
The BGC responded to the restrictions in Scotland with a statement on their website:
“This news will come as a huge blow to casinos in Scotland, which only reopened their doors in August and who have been trying to rebuild their businesses since then.
“However, we welcome the First Minister’s announcement of financial help for the hospitality sector, and call on the Scottish Government to ensure it gets to the businesses that need it most – including casinos – as quickly as possible.”