BGC Welcomes Reopening of Casinos

The Betting and Gaming Council has welcomed the reopening of casinos and relaxed rules for betting shops in the UK. For many businesses, it is the first time that they have been allowed to open to the public this year. The news comes as part of the latest easing of lockdown restrictions. Over a hundred casinos in England, Scotland and Wales were allowed to open on May 17th.

Men in suits playing roulette with chips at a casino.

It is the first time that casinos have been allowed to open to the public this year. ©Javon Swaby/Pexels

Lockdown Rules Lifted

As the UK continues with its roadmap out of lockdown restrictions, May 17th marked the latest step towards normal life. Pubs, restaurants and cafes can now serve customers indoors, while hotels and B&Bs have been allowed to reopen. Rules on meeting up have also been relaxed and people can meet indoors and stay overnight.

Groups of up to thirty people can participate in indoor activities, with that number rising to fifty outdoors. Even rules on social distancing have been adjusted. People can now exercise their own judgement on contact with friends and family, although cautiousness is still advised over hugging.

For the UK’s gambling industry, May 17th was also an important day. For the first time in 2021, casinos in England, Scotland and Wales were allowed to reopen to the public. Safety measures have been put in place to protect customers and staff. Social distancing is still necessary, as are face masks and hand sanitizer.

It’s not quite business as usual for all casinos though. In Scotland, casinos must close at 10:30pm and are not permitted to serve alcohol to customers. In Glasgow casinos must remain closed for a while longer. First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has ordered that the city must stay under level three restrictions, as case rates continue to rise there. It is thought that the rise may be due to the Indian variant of the virus.

Scottish betting shop customers can also now enjoy access to gaming machines. While the country’s betting shops opened on April 26th, access to these machines was restricted. Again, customers in Glasgow and Moray will have to wait until they are out of level three for that rule to be relaxed.

Betting Shop Restrictions Relaxed

In England, betting shops can also now enjoy a number of restrictions being relaxed. The country’s bookmakers reopened on April 12th, although strict rules have been in place up until this point. The number of customers allowed inside at any one time has been capped at a maximum of eight. Customers were only allowed in for periods of fifteen minutes, and couldn’t visit more than twice in a day.

There was also a ban on showing live sport on TV, and only two betting machines could be switched on. Chairs and tables were removed to prevent customers from sitting down. These measures were designed to protect customers and staff from the virus and discourage customers from spending long periods at betting shops.

While bookmakers were happy to be open, the strict rules did have an impact on footfall. Greg Knight, managing director of Jenningsbet, said that trade at his shops was down by 50%. The latest easing of restrictions will make betting shops far more welcoming.

Rules on social distancing and mask-wearing, as well as a cap on customer numbers will remain in place. However, customers can now enjoy watching live sports with the comfort of chairs and tables, as well as increased access to gaming machines. Retail managing director for Ladbrokes and Coral, Andy Hicks welcomed the lifting of restrictions:

“Getting our betting shops back to being sociable leisure hubs in the community is really important to the longevity of retail betting. We hope that having had it taken away, many of our customers realize how much they value their local betting shop.”

In Scotland, betting shops have been able to show live sports since they reopened, but gaming machines were turned off. Now Scottish customers in level two regions can access those gaming machines once more. In Wales, betting shops have been allowed to operate much more freely since reopening, with only social distancing and hygiene measures in place.

Economic Boost

The Betting and Gaming Council, which represents more than 90% of the UK’s betting shops, casinos and online operators, has welcomed the latest easing of restrictions. According to the BGC, 11,600 people are employed by casinos in the UK. In the year before the pandemic struck, casinos contributed £500 million to the Treasury in tax.

Furthermore, London’s casinos are a huge tourism draw to the capital. Casinos such as the Hippodrome Casino, Les Ambassadeurs and The Casino at the Empire are amongst the most famous in the world. In all, the capital’s casinos are thought to contribute £120 million to its tourism sector.

The BGC has cited figures collected in a report it commissioned from Ernst and Young. The report found that the UK’s betting shops support 46,000 jobs and contribute in the region of £1 billion a year in tax to the Treasury. Betting shops are also important assets to sports, in particular horseracing. Bookmakers help to generate £350 million for horseracing via media rights and the betting levy.

Horse racing has struggled during the pandemic, as schedules were disrupted and events have had to be held behind closed doors. Owners have returned to racing grounds, and it is hoped that punters will be allowed to follow suit soon.

In total, the UK’s betting and gaming industry is responsible for contributing £7.7 billion to the economy in gross value added. That means that the recent return of both betting shops and casinos will offer significant boosts to the economy as the UK recovers from a year of lockdowns.

The latest set of rule relaxations is also great news for those who work at casinos. Staff have worked hard to make their businesses Covid-safe and are ready to welcome customers back to have fun. Michael Dugher, boss of the BGC, praised the news stating:

“As well as providing excellent entertainment for their customers, casinos are a major contributor to the UK economy, something which will be vital in the months ahead as the Government tries to repair the damage done to the nation’s finances by Covid-19.”

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