John O’Reilly, Chief Executive of Rank Group Plc, has stated that the government has not followed its own public health orders and further scientific measures by choosing to keep UK casinos venues under lockdown.
Dominating industry headlines, last Friday PM Boris Johnson repealed the government’s decision to allow English casino venues to reopen on Saturday 1 August.
PM Johnson told media that the government had decided to ‘squeeze the brake pedal’ on further hospitality and leisure reopenings, a decision that will see UK casinos kept six months under lockdown since their mid-March closing orders.
Leading the operating company of Grosvenor Casinos, the UK’s largest land-based casino operator, O’Reilly expressed his disbelief at the government’s judgement.
“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 Rank’s previous statement issued to Chancellor Rishi Sunak last June, warning the HM Treasury of the dire economic consequences should the government fail to reopen casino venues this summer.
Approaching six months under lockdown, O’Reilly stated that Grosvenor venues that employ over 4,600 staff across their venues will now face critical decisions with regards to their survival.
O’Reilly further urged the Treasury to clarify whether the UK furlough scheme would be extended for leisure and hospitality venues forced to extend lockdown to comply with government orders.
He added: “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.”