The Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) has hit back at the new restrictions imposed by the Scottish government, warning that the measures ‘will come as a huge blow to casinos’.
The new temporary measures, announced by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon yesterday, came into force at 18:00 last night, and will run until Friday 25 October.
Casinos and bingo halls, in addition to all pubs and restaurants, will have to close across Scotland’s central belt, focusing on five health board areas of Ayrshire & Arran, Forth Valley, Greater Glasgow & Clyde, Lanarkshire, and Lothian. Moreover, hospitality venues will only be permitted to serve alcohol outdoors.
The central belt covers around 60% of the population of Scotland, some 3.4million people, and includes Edinburgh and Glasgow.
Responding to the First Minister’s announcement of further restrictions on Scotland’s hospitality sector, the Betting and Gaming Council said: “This news will come as a huge blow to casinos in Scotland, which only reopened their doors in August and who have been trying to rebuild their businesses since then.
“However, we welcome the First Minister’s announcement of financial help for the hospitality sector, and call on the Scottish Government to ensure it gets to the businesses that need it most – including casinos – as quickly as possible.”
Adhering to strict ‘covid secure measures’, Scottish casinos had been allowed to reopen on 25 September, having been six months under lockdown – a decision the BGC claims has resulted in thousands of jobs lost.
Leading the devolved government in Scotland, Sturgeon has taken an affirmative stance on trying to quell the rising cases of coronavirus across the country.
While the measures has attracted criticism from the hospitality sector, it follows on from Holyrood reporting more than 1,000 new positive test results in a single day. The new temporary restrictions are expected to receive a £40 million support fund, however, to support those affected by the measures.
Speaking yesterday, Sturgeon told parliament that actions are needed now to prevent a return to the peak level of infections experienced in spring by the end of this month.
“While there are significant restrictions still in place – and they are hard and painful – we are living much more freely now than in the spring and early summer,” she said.
“We are determined – if at all possible – that this will continue to be the case. We are not going back into lockdown today. We are not closing schools. We are not halting the remobilisation of the NHS for non-COVID care. And we are not asking people to stay at home.
“The need for action is highlighted by today’s figures and, more fundamentally, in the evidence paper published today. To try to interrupt this trajectory, we must act now. While the measures will feel like a backward step, they are in the interests of protecting our progress overall.
“It is by taking the tough but necessary action now that we hope to avoid even tougher action in future.”
Media sources have reported that Westminster is expected to follow suit with similar measures in the ‘North of England’ later this week – where exactly this will affect is yet to be clarified.
Having faced a tough few months in Parliament, Boris Johnson is likely to face further scrutiny over his lack of consistency when it comes to both supporting the night-time economy and implementing vague regulations across different regions in England.