John O’Reilly, Chief Executive of Rank Group Plc, has claimed that by continuing to hold UK casinos under lockdown, the government has refused to obey its own public safety directives and more research steps.
Last Friday PM Boris Johnson, dominated industry news, abrogated the government’s decision to allow English casino facilities to reopen on Saturday, August 1.
PM Johnson told media that the government had agreed to ‘squeeze the brake pedal’ on further hospitality and leisure reopenings, a move which will see UK casinos kept under lockdown for six months after their closing orders in mid-March.
Leading the Grosvenor Casinos operating company, the UK’s biggest land-based casino operator, O’Reilly shared his disappointment at the government’s decision.
“Casinos are not higher risk settings and to suggest so is misleading and dangerous,” he said. “The facts are that Public Health England gave the sector a clean bill of health which provided us with a reopening date of 1st August which we then worked towards.
“We have large venues which makes social distancing easy to maintain and have taken extensive additional measures to ensure our colleagues and customer remain safe and secure at all times.”
O’Reilly reiterates the previous statement by Rank given last June to Chancellor Rishi Sunak, warning the HM Treasury of the dire economic implications if the government refuses to reopen casino facilities this summer.
Approaching six months of lockout, O’Reilly said Grosvenor venues employing more than 4,600 staff across their venues will now face difficult decisions about their survival.
O’Reilly also encouraged the Treasury to explain how it will expand the UK furlough programme to leisure and entertainment facilities that would be forced to prolong the lockout to comply with government orders.
He went on to add: “The blanket approach taken to keep casinos closed is not based on science, nor does it appear to be taken on economic grounds either as, in addition to the £1.5m losses Grosvenor are experiencing for every week we remain closed, this is costing the Treasury nearly £2m a week in furlough and a similar amount in lost gaming taxes. None of it makes any sense.
“The longer we are closed the bigger the risk to jobs, as we are not in a position to benefit from the tapering furlough regime introduced by the Treasury to get everyone back to work by October. This has to be a two-week delay, not a longer suspension, otherwise the casino industry will find itself facing a whole heap of trouble.”