Jonathon Swaine, managing director of Rank Group, has branded the closing of casinos across Greater Manchester and South Yorkshire as a ‘senseless’ decision since the regions joined the current tier three restrictions of England.
The new measures would mean that a number of Grosvenor Casinos and Mecca Bingo locations in Rank would be forced to shut their doors, having reopened only recently after the first wave of lockdown measures.
Swaine slammed the decision to include casinos among the establishments forced to close, published by BusinessLive. He said: “The enforced closure of our ultra COVID-secure casinos is senseless.
“At first we thought that the decisions being made were arbitrary but it’s now clear that our casinos are being subjected to an aggressive and needless attack by decision makers who clearly understand nothing of just how safe casinos are and appear determined to damage the land-based betting and gaming industry for the sake of it.
“Venues such as pubs are able to remain open and serve alcohol if they also sell a meal, which leaves gambling venues as the only ones ordered by the government to shut up shop. It is grossly unfair.
“As well as operating to the very highest COVID-secure standards with robust evidence to support that position, casinos support huge numbers of jobs while paying up to 50 per cent tax rates to the Exchequer.
“We have offered to close our casino bars in exchange for permission to trade but are still being forced to close and we’re yet to see or hear of a single shred of evidence that supports that decision.
“It’s a targeted attack on betting and gaming premises, the tens of thousands of employees and customers in this sector and the time has come to call it out for what it is.”
With widespread opposition from around the sector, the decision to include casinos, bingo halls and betting shops among the swathes of venues forced to close under tier three restrictions has been met.
BGC CEO Michael Dugher urged Business Secretary Alok Sharma in an open letter published by the Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) earlier this week to block the ‘unfair and unnecessary’ closure of betting shops and casinos across the country, citing concerns about possible mass job losses.
Dugher, in his letter to the Secretary of State, said: “There are currently just over 6,700 shops employing nearly 40,000 staff across the country, the majority of which are female.
“The singling out of betting shops for closure is unfair, unnecessary and runs counter to the sensible approach the Government had previously adopted. This decision looks ill-informed, arbitrary, and along with plans to close COVID-secure casinos (that had offered to give up selling alcohol) it frankly looks anti-gambling industry.
“It will have a hugely negative impact on our businesses and staff, despite their efforts to ensure a very safe environment for customers that is well beyond any other non-essential retail business.”