The Betting and Gaming Council has warned of the ‘catastrophic’ effect on the UK casino sector should a curfew be enforced at 10 pm, a move that could result in thousands of job losses.
It is said that ministers are considering implementing a curfew and putting pubs under an early closing order, with venues vowing to introduce new steps and to take further action to avoid further closures.
BGC chief executive Michael Dugher said: “We support the need to act swiftly to protect public health, and thank the government for the support they have given the UK’s casinos so far.
“However, a blanket 10pm curfew on businesses would be catastrophic and force casinos to close once again – this time for good. It would certainly result in many thousands of redundancies, while having a negligible impact on the spread of COVID.
“Since reopening In August, casinos have been able to protect customers and staff through providing best in class safety measures, including sophisticated track and trace systems.
“Any new social distancing measures should be focused on the areas and age groups of the country at most risk, not just arbitrarily applied across the board.”
In a letter to Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden, Dugher and Genting UK manager Paul Wilcock say that such a move would “devastate” casinos that do 50 to 70 percent of their business after 10 pm.
In addition, both stipulate that an average casino guest is 48 years of age, well over the age profile ministers and councillors may seek to target with a curfew imposed.
It is also said that groups of young adults prefer not to meet for drink after 10 pm in casinos, with venues vowing to take steps to actively avoid it.
Britain’s casinos, which employ 14,000 people and have paid £1,3bn in tax to the Treasury over the past three years, only re-opened last month as part of the country-wide coronavirus lockout after closing in March.
With casino attendance varying from 5 to 60 percent of pre-COVID levels, the letter also advises the government either to prolong the furlough programme, which is set to end next month, or to provide some tailored assistance for companies struggling to get back on their feet.
The letter says: “To ensure the sector’s survival it is vital that any additional COVID social distancing measures, such as curfews, are not imposed on businesses that have demonstrated that they are COVID-secure and do not cater for the age group targeted by the measure.
“The introduction of a blanket measure such as curfews would certainly result in many thousands of redundancies in a very short time-frame. It is no exaggeration to state that it would devastate the UK land-based casino sector.
“The conclusion to draw is that the impact of a casino curfew on COVID numbers would be negligible but the impact on our businesses would be catastrophic.”