England’s Casinos to Reopen in August

The government has announced that England’s casinos will be allowed to reopen from August 1st, with strict safety measures in place. This will include limiting capacity, social distancing and hand sanitizing. That news comes too late for the Malaysian owned Genting Group, which has warned that 1,642 of its jobs are at risk.

A golden casino lit up at night.

Casinos in England will be allowed to reopen in August, although social distancing and other strict coronavirus measures will be firmly in place. ©Claudio Schwarz/Unsplash

A Relief for the Industry

The UK government has finally issued a date for casinos to reopen their doors to the public. Casinos in England will be allowed to reopen on August 1st, although it will by no means be business as usual. Venues will have to stick to strict rules to protect staff and customers from the spread of coronavirus. Visitors can expect special measures common at other shops and businesses, including social distancing, masks and hand sanitizer.

Casino-goers will only be allowed to play at table, and will be expected to sanitize their hands before and after play. Seating will also be sanitized before and after use, so customers will have to remain seated and will not be allowed to circulate the tables. Even chips will have to be cleaned too.

The Betting and Gaming Council, which represents the UK’s bookmakers, online operators and casinos, has welcomed the good news. Praising the government’s decision, the BGC said that reopening casinos would provide a welcome boost for the tourism and hospitality sector, after over four months in lockdown.

England’s casinos, which support over 12,000 jobs, are vitally important to the tourism economy, contributing almost £4 million every week. They also contribute nearly £300 million in tax to the Exchequer. Overall, the UK’s betting and gaming industry support over 70,000 jobs and contributes more than £3 billion to the Treasury.

However, casinos in Scotland and Wales are still waiting for clarification on when they will be allowed to return to business. An estimated 2,000 employees are still none the wiser as to when they can return to work, or if their jobs will be kept at all. The BGC’s chief executive Michael Dugher said:

“The uncertainty has been awful for the 12,000 people who work in casinos in England and we now call on Scottish and Welsh governments to follow suit and permit casinos to reopen without delay. The devolved administrations owe it to the 2,000 employees who work in Scottish and Welsh casinos to end this uncertainty and help them return to work.”

The decision to reopen England’s casinos has been a long time coming, and one that the BGC has been lobbying hard for. Earlier this month, Michal Dugher wrote to Chancellor Rishi Sunak, making the case for reopening casinos. England’s betting shops have been open since June 15th, despite often being much smaller spaces than casinos.

While casinos have been closed, operators have had to rely on their online counterparts to pick up the slack. This contributed to concerns from campaigners and MPs that children and problem gamblers could be exposed to higher levels of gambling advertising during the lockdown.

Genting Could Axe Over 1,600 Jobs

While the announcement is definitely good news for England’s casinos, it may come too late for some. Genting Casinos has said that 1,642 of its staff across 27 venues could lose their jobs permanently, despite spending months on furlough. While the operator does plan to reopen some of its venues, clubs in Margate, Bristol and Torquay are set to close.

Despite the government’s furlough scheme, the coronavirus pandemic has been tough for UK casinos. Genting has had to shake up its business model to continue trading beyond the lockdown. The operator will be ending poker games and hospitality services to shore up cash for elsewhere in the business. That means an end to the famous Genting Poker Series, which was only recently given a rebrand. Genting will also be reducing its payrolls to accommodate for these changes.

In Singapore, Genting may also lay off up to 2,000 of its staff at Resorts World Sentosa. Singapore’s casinos went into lockdown in April and reopened on July 1st. However, only its top tier members have been allowed back, and with heavy restrictions in place.

According to Genting, those whose jobs face uncertainty in the UK may remain on furlough, and could be brought back to work later on. Genting has described the impact of COVID-19 on business as ‘heartbreaking’. However, its decision has been met with criticism. Speaking on behalf of GMB Union, national officer Mick Rix said:

“Taxpayer’s cash has funded Genting to the tune of millions of pounds during lockdown – now they are making people redundant rather contribute towards the Government furlough scheme from the end of August.”

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