2020 is not going to end on a high note for the global gaming industry, or for the small independent operators that were hoping for a fourth-quarter rebound from the disaster caused by COVID-19. Everywhere, new orders are being implemented to have casinos and gambling shops shut down as the coronavirus starts to reappear, and the latest to be forced to take drastic measures once again is Scotland. As of this Friday, around 500 gambling shops there will turn off the lights for another forced timeout because of COVID-19.
Scotland is implementing “Level Four” procedures to try to prevent a recent coronavirus spike from getting worse. Under the level’s guidelines, all bars, restaurants, non-essential stores and hospitality venues need to halt their operations until December 11. Caught up in this are the gambling shops, representing about half of the market, which are already under considerable strain because of the global pandemic. Already this past July, there were concerns that the Scottish gambling industry was close to folding because of COVID-19.
According to Scotland’s First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, “Stubbornly high prevalence means that we might have less flexibility to offer some limited and careful easing of restrictions over the Christmas period which we are very keen to do. Moving to Level 4 restrictions for a limited period in some areas, while not a decision we would ever take lightly because of the wider economic and social impact, would help us to address both of these concerns.” However, while the gambling shops and other activity will be forced to a grinding halt, sports games will continue.
The Betting and Gaming Council (BGC), as it has done previously, supports the government as it tries to keep COVID-19 from becoming a larger problem again. However, it also registered its concerns that more support is not being given to the gaming industry. It also feels that including the gambling shops in the lockdown might not be warranted, given the gaming industry’s ability to responsibly implement measures to prevent the coronavirus from spreading. With hundreds of gaming industry workers already at risk of losing their jobs, the new shutdown, only a month before Christmas and Hogmanay, is not going to give many people reason to celebrate.
The BGC hopes December 11 will bring good news, asserting, “We hope that the shops will be able to re-open as soon as possible so they can go back to contributing to the economy.”