The U.K. is charging hard against gambling everywhere in an attempt to curb what it considers to be runaway problem gambling. As a result, operators are taking a revenue hit that, in turn, leads to a reduction in revenue earned by the government. The COVID-19 fiasco arrived to give regulators a hand in reducing the potential revenue, forcing casinos and gambling shops to take an extended vacation in an attempt to stop the coronavirus from spreading. Now, after having started to get back on the right track, a new wave of closures is coming as COVID-19 makes a reappearance, and gambling shops across Wales are the latest to see their recovery efforts slide back down the hill. The country is going to impose what it calls a “time-limited firebreak” on gambling venues beginning this Friday in an effort to keep the coronavirus from gaining more ground.
As of 6 PM local time this Friday, the 366 gambling shops in Wales are going to have to shut off the lights and lock the doors. Mark Drakeford, the First Minister of Wales, has confirmed that the shutdown is necessary to try to stop COVID-19, and that the firebreak is expected to last 17 days. In addition to the gambling shops, casinos, restaurants and bars will also need to go on holiday, while other businesses are encouraged to allow employees to work from home where possible.
The U.K.’s gambling industry has already taken a massive hit because of the ongoing health pandemic and has repeatedly called for the government to provide assistance. After the latest announcement by Wales, the Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) stressed that government-led financial support is the only thing that will save the industry, tweeting, “Following @MarkDrakeford’s announcement of a 17-day #COVID19 lockdown in Wales, the BGC is urging the Government to come up with the necessary package of financial support for businesses affected, including 366 betting shops and three casinos employing 2,000 people between them.”
The good news is that Wales is prepared to respond to the repeated requests. The bad news is that the response won’t be anywhere close to what is needed to keep the industry afloat. Drakeford added that a £300-million ($388.3 million) fund is coming; however, the allotment for each business is tiny. Each business covered by the relief will be given about $1,294, while small- and medium-sized businesses in the retail and hospitality and leisure segments will be given a one-time payment of up to $6,473 (£5,000).
Wales isn’t the only part of the U.K. that is falling backward. Lancashire and Merseyside saw their casinos and betting venues shut down last week as a result of England’s decision to put the areas under Tier 3 anti-COVID-19 controls. Between the two, around 450 betting shops were forced to halt operations once again.