BGC pledges to maintain safer gambling momentum. Michael Dugher.

BGC urges government to allow betting shops to reopen in Tier 3

Casinos and betting shops across England have offered to voluntarily introduce tighter coronavirus restrictions in order to be allowed to reopen in Tier Three areas once the current lockdown ends.

Michael Dugher, CEO of the Betting and Gaming Council (BGC), made a ‘direct plea’ to Cabinet ministers Michael Gove and Matt Hancock, stating that venues ‘will go even further’ to ensure that they are COVID secure.

In letters to the two ministers, Dugher outlined the extra steps casinos and betting shops will take in order reopen in areas in Tier Three on 2 December.

Dugher wrote: “Our members are fully supportive of the Government’s efforts to tackle Covid. That is why betting shops have, in my view, the most stringent anti-Covid measures in place of any other comparable part of the High Street, and why casinos similarly have best-in-class anti-Covid measures compared with any other part of hospitality.

“As you can imagine, they are deeply concerned about the huge negative impact that closure of their businesses is having on their staff, customers, suppliers and indeed sport, whilst having a negligible impact on the R rate.

“But, in order to give further reassurance to you and the public that opening these businesses in Tier 3 is possible, our members have offered to introduce further restrictions on for example customer numbers, facilities and products available.”

Betting shops have said that they will limit the length of time customers can stay in their premises, cap the number allowed in their shops at any one time as well as close all of their vending and hot drink facilities

Meanwhile casinos will stop live gaming such as table roulette, blackjack and poker. In addition, venues will be limited to 25% capacity while they would also stop selling alcohol altogether if allowed to stay open after the 10pm curfew, when they normally do up to 70% of their trade.

Dugher added: “The impacts of the pandemic are already being felt by the casino sector. There have been substantial reductions in employment with one operator having reduced its workforce by over 40% to date. Casino businesses had strong balance sheets at the start of the year, the same is no longer the case with costs during closure amounting to up to £15 million per month for some operators.

“I would be extremely grateful if you could give serious consideration to these measures which are proactively offered up by our members to provide further reassurance that they are safe to re-open in Tier 3 areas.

“On a personal note, I fully understand the demands that are being made of you in this unprecedented crisis and you have all my support and sympathy. I do hope you and your officials can look kindly at these proposals on behalf of very many businesses and thousands of employees.”

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