John O’Reilly, Rank Group’s chief executive, confirmed his disappointment in the UK government’s reluctance to allow England’s casinos to reopen on July 4, as previously expected and prepared by licenced operators.
Rank’s CEO branded the government’s latest leisure and hospitality relaxation orders as ‘baffling’ and ‘incoherent,’ with the government allowing England’s bingo venues to reopen but keeping lockdown measures for casino counterparts with no justification for the judgement.
O’Reilly, leading UK’s largest land-based casino and bingo incumbent, stressed that Grosvenor and Mecca venues had collaborated with Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) and DCMS officials to ensure that all venues were ‘covid proofed.’
O’Reilly explained: “Being excluded from the 4th July tranche of businesses, therefore, came as a blow. We’re struggling to understand the rationale but rather than dwell on the injustice of the decision, I am keen to encourage members of the government and key decision-makers to come and witness, first-hand, what we are able to safely guarantee for colleagues and customers.”
Taking direct action, O’Reilly stated that the HM Treasury must understand the consequences of leaving ‘on the sidelines’ casino businesses, which currently see Rank burning a cash rate of £10 million per month, even accounting for digital revenue.
O’Reilly told the Treasury that before lockout, Rank’s land-based activities contributed £ 1.5 million in tax per week in the area.
He continued: “For every day that our Grosvenor casinos remain closed, the liquidity on our balance sheet is being drained. At the same time, we remain reliant on the Government’s furlough payments for the vast majority of our 4600 Grosvenor colleagues which is costing c.£1.5 million every week.”
O’Reilly said that Rank executives are working with Unite and GMB labour unions to get all employees back to work and off furlough as quickly as possible.
Following the decision of the government, O’Reilly stressed that time is essential as the company aims to avoid any redundancies in the summer months in which it plans to rebuild consumer demand: “Obviously, this plan is harder and harder to execute with every week that passes with our casinos still shuttered up.
“In short, we are asking the Government to quickly review the decision to keep casinos closed, to recognise the safety measures that are in place including our ability to identify every customer on our premises and who they may have interacted with, and to include us – as soon as possible – when the next opportunity for reopening is discussed.
“In doing so, we’ll swiftly bring colleagues back to work who are itching to get back to work, we’ll give customers an ultra-safe and rewarding experience in our venues, and we’ll start to reverse the economic burden that is costing both government and our business more and more with each passing day.”