BGC: Government must ‘act fast’ and extend furlough scheme

The Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) has demanded that the government extend its furlough scheme for casino employees, mitigating the impact of its decision to postpone the reopening of England’s casino venues this August.  

Claiming that the maintained closure of casinos risks the UK ‘permanently losing part of its rich tourism and entertainment heritage’, the BGC pointed out that the delay for reopening venues has cost the industry over £14 million.

BGC Chief Executive Michael Dugher said: “World famous and iconic venues like the Hippodrome and Les Ambassadeurs are not just part of our proud past, they want to be part of economic revival in the future. They are not looking for a hand out – they are looking to help out. By reopening safely so they can play their part in contributing to getting the economy moving again and to contributing vital tax revenues to the Exchequer.

“Some of Britain’s most iconic casinos, who attract high spending visitors from around the world, are sitting idle whilst pubs and restaurants round the corner are open and doing a roaring trade.

“The Government must step in to save these businesses before it’s too late. As a first step, they should extend the full furlough scheme to help offset the £14 million casinos are expected to lose as a result of the two week delay and compensate casinos for the wasted costs of the late change of decision on their reopening.

The BGC has demanded a furlough extension for UK casino employees, as venues across the country enter six months under lockdown, with little to no certainty on their operational futures.  

Working with its members, the BGC has documented to the government the destructive economic and community consequences of its continued approach of sidelining venues from reopening.

Dugher added: “Casino operators have done everything asked of them by Public Health England. They have gone to extraordinary lengths and cost to ensure their venues are Covid secure. They were rightly given the green light to reopen by public health officials who recognised the significant investment operators had made and the negligible risk they posed.”

According to the BGC, ‘up to 6,000 jobs may be permanently lost’ if the government continues to delay the reopening of casinos. However, the trade body emphasised that ‘this number will only increase as the Government’s support schemes are withdrawn and casinos remain closed’.

Casinos were initially scheduled to reopen on 1 August after being given the green light by Public Health England (PHE). However, on 31 July, this decision was reversed by Prime Minister Boris Johnson due to concerns over rising numbers of coronavirus cases.

It is estimated that casinos had spent close to £6 million in preparation for reopening, having invested in measures such as perspex screens, sanitisation equipment and sophisticated track and trace systems, as well as strict social distancing measures and hygiene protocols.

Casino operators have agreed to donate £200,000 worth of fresh food and drink brought in for reopening on 1st August to local charities.

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