Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has been warned by UK casino leaders that “hundreds of Scottish jobs’” have been placed at risk following the SNP’s enforcement that casino venues should be temporarily shut.
New Scottish Government COVID-19 emergency measures enforced that any region placed under ‘Level 2’ requires local casinos to close entirely. Bosses have called on the Scottish First Minister to remove casinos from Level 2 restrictions, pointing out that £30m a year in tax payments are also under threat if their doors are closed indefinitely.
Responding to SNP actions was John O’Reilly, chief executive of Rank Group Plc – the operating firm of Grosvenor Casinos. He said they were seeking parity with pubs, which pubs can stay open if they serve meals, and stressed that casinos were willing to stop selling alcohol if it meant they could avoid closure.
O’Reilly stated: “In our five Scottish casinos, we have ID scanning technology which captures the data of every customer entering our venues.
“Thus far, across the UK, we have had over 400,000 customer visits from over 135,000 customers and we are aware of just two cases of customers having been positively tested for the coronavirus, neither of which have been in Scotland.”
Scotland’s 11 casinos, which employ 700 people, were finally allowed to re-open in August following the first lockdown after public health bosses ruled that they were safe.
Measures such as perspex screens, track and trace systems and strict social distancing rules have seen them operate without incident since then.
But new Scottish Government rules mean that where regions are placed in Level 2, local casinos must close entirely.
O’Reilly continued: “Our venues are indisputably COVID-secure. Why must they therefore close in Level 2 whilst other hospitality industries can remain open?
“I write to you utterly confused as to why our venues must close in Level 2, extremely worried on behalf of thousands of my Rank colleagues who now face enormous job insecurity in Scotland which need not be the case, and in the hope that even at this late stage, you will follow the evidence.
“If we are treated in line with other areas of hospitality, we will be able to protect jobs, safely give Scottish customers something to be cheerful about, and play a full part in Scotland’s economic recovery.”
Michael Dugher, chief executive of the Betting and Gaming Council (BGC), added: “Casinos have been operating safely since August. The simple fact is there is no evidence that they contribute to the spread of COVID, so closing them makes no sense – especially when other parts of the hospitality sector in Scotland are being allowed to stay open.
“I would urge the Scottish Government to think again, allow casinos to operate safely and make a vital contribution to the UK’s economic recovery.”