Casino leaders call for ‘lifeline’ as government imposes 10pm curfew

The casino industry has been left reeling after yesterday’s announcement of further coronavirus restrictions, which have seen the government impose a blanket 10pm curfew on their venues.

Responding to the measures, The Rank Group has called upon the government to urgently consider expanding the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme to support businesses affected by the new measures.

Earlier this week, London casinos offered to close their bars at 10pm to keep the rest of their venues operational, since 70% of casinos ‘do their trade after 10pm’.

Rank lambasted the measures, stating that the government had served a ‘crippling blow’ to the sector which had already lost out on months of commerce due to the lockdown.

John O’Reilly, CEO of The Rank Group, said: “A blanket 10pm curfew is a crippling blow to the casino industry. There is a misconception that our venues could be places where groups of young people gather to drink late at night. It’s simply not the case.

“The average spend, per customer, per visit, on food and drink in one of our casinos is £4.20 and the average age of a casino customer is 48. People are not coming to casinos to drink and yet we are now caught up in the curfew.

“Well over half of our revenues are generated after 10pm. That puts casinos in the unenviable position of being the most severely impacted industry by the government’s decision.”

Rank has urged the government to collaborate with the industry to formulate more effective, targeted measures to curb the spread of the virus.

Meanwhile casino leadership has maintained that their venues are the safest on the highstreet, having imposed the strictest social distancing and hygiene standards set by the government’s public health advisors.

O’Reilly continued: “The Prime Minister said that he will ensure that businesses can stay open in a Covid-compliant way. The only way we can stay open and survive is with an economic support package for over 4,500 Grosvenor colleagues who are now very concerned about their futures. An extension to the furlough scheme beyond October 31 is critical.

“The casino sector pays over £300m in gaming duties to the Exchequer. We are proud of it and proud of the thousands of jobs we support, but unless the government reviews its decision or offers us the support we need to survive the months ahead, casinos will disappear for good with the inevitable impact on jobs and hundreds of millions of pounds in tax receipts.”

Speaking in the commons yesterday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson stated that the new restrictions could be in place for a further six months, which could place further financial strain on the gaming sector.

Responding to Johnson’s announcement of further COVID-19 restrictions, Michael Dugher, chief executive of the Betting and Gaming Council, said: “Boris Johnson may well have signalled the death knell for the casino industry by including them in the list of venues which will be forced to close their doors at 10pm.

“He has taken this decision despite the sector offering to close its bars and restaurants inside casinos at 10pm and despite the fact the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport argued that casinos – which do up to 70 per cent of their trade after 10pm – should be exempt from these restrictions.

“In his statement, the Prime Minister said ‘we will ensure that businesses can stay open in a Covid-compliant way’. But his own public health officials saw for themselves the sophisticated anti-Covid measures which casinos have put in place – and then gave them the go-ahead to re-open just last month because they are Covid-safe.

“It is now absolutely vital that the Government throws the industry a lifeline by putting in place an urgent economic package to alleviate the damage that this decision will cause. That must include an extension to the furlough scheme beyond 31 October, while there is also merit in Labour’s calls for a £1.7 billion ‘High Street fightback fund’ to help those businesses affected by the curfew.

“The 10pm curfew will slash casino incomes by up to 75% and likely lead to half their workforce – some 7,000 people – being made redundant.

“Without immediate and substantial financial help from the Government, perfectly viable casinos – which between them paid £1.3 billion in tax to the Treasury in the last three years – will simply go to the wall. How does the Prime Minister hope to power an economic recovery if he’s sat back and allowed whole industries to go to the wall?”

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