The Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) has called on the UK government to consider the financial needs of casinos when drafting up any support packages, in the event of further restrictions.
As the Omicron variant of COVID-19 continues to sweep across the UK, authorities have begun to implement new restrictions such as mandatory mask wearing in public shops, and Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak has been faced with calls for the drafting of a new economic support package should more measures be introduced.
Should further restrictions be implemented as ministers encourage greater social distancing ahead of Christmas, the BGC has argued that casinos deserve to receive fiscal support as an ‘integral part’ of the UK’s hospitality industry alongside pubs and restaurants.
“Casinos are a major economic contributor to UK plc, as well as an integral part of the hospitality industry,” said Michael Dugher, Chief Executive of the BGC.
“After a gruelling 18 months, they have started to recover from the various impositions, including prolonged closures and travel bans, but they are now understandably concerned that further restrictions over Christmas and into the New Year will have a significant impact on their recovery.”
Casinos – along with much of the retail and hospitality sector – were placed under lockdown conditions for significant periods of time during 2020 and 2021, placing a heavy financial burden on the industry.
The BGC has noted that casinos employ 11,600 people across 120 different venues, whilst the industry also contributes more than £600 million in tax to the Treasury.
The sector received far less sympathy in the government’s reopening roadmap in the first half of this year, reopening in May whilst pubs and restaurants were able to reopen in late March, although betting shops were able to unlock their doors in April albeit with extensive social distancing and hygiene measures as well as time limits on customers.
Dugher continued: “Casinos, like many others in the hospitality industry, are simply seeking reassurances that if the pandemic requires yet more severe restrictions, that they will be adequately supported by government.”