Roadmap out of Lockdown: English Betting Shops to Open in April, Casinos in May

Roadmap out of Lockdown: English Betting Shops to Open in April, Casinos in May

‘A roadmap out of lockdown’ was announced by Boris Johnson in Parliament and it was music to a lot of people’s ears. People can finally see an end in sight to the latest lockdown, with a phased return to society starting from March 8.

The documents presented to Parliament by the Prime Minister did not technically mention betting shops and casinos specifically. However, a spokesperson for Downing Street has confirmed that betting shops will in fact be opening in the second stage, on April 12. Casinos, bingo halls, and adult gaming centres will open a month later in stage three, on May 17.

Opening dates are not set in stone as Johnson said they still depend on data presented at the time about the spread of Covid-19, and that there will be at least a five-week gap between each stage. This means that if one stage has to be pushed back, all subsequent stages will have to be pushed back by the same time.

All brick-and-mortar casinos and gambling halls have been officially closed since January 5, when a third lockdown started. However, in reality, many gambling venues have been closed for far longer due to regional restrictions imposed upon the facilities by the tiered system.

Re-opening must come as welcome news to the Betting and Gaming Council. Just a week before, the entity had said, “betting shops must be allowed to reopen alongside other non-essential retail. Last summer, when most betting shops were able to open, they showed that they have best-in-class anti-Covid measures compared to any other part of the high street to protect customers and staff.”

“Likewise, casinos are eager to help Britain get back on its feet. The night-time economy has taken a hammering during the pandemic and draconian restrictions, including the 10 pm curfew, have made a difficult situation more desperate for many businesses.” Their pleas have not fallen on deaf ears with Johnson stating that once restrictions are lifted, they will not be re-introduced as the re-opening schedule is “one way”.

Reactions to the roadmap out of lockdown across the gambling sector have been largely positive. Managing director, retail at Rank Group, Jonathan Swaine said, “As everyone did, we watched with anticipation as the government rolled out the ‘four steps to freedom’ […] and we were delighted to hear that both bingo halls and casinos are expected to be able to reopen alongside other indoor leisure and hospitality businesses on 17 May; subject to the data going in the right direction at each stage. The removal of the 10 pm curfew is also hugely welcome news, especially for Grosvenor Casinos.

“We look forward to welcoming customers back in May and will share updates on our safety measures, as well as news on a number of exciting campaigns, in due course. For now, a simple ‘thank you’ from me to the Mecca and Grosvenor teams, as well as wider partners and stakeholders – it feels very positive to have a route to focus on.”

The lockdown has had devastating effects on casinos especially. As explained to the BBC by Simon Thomas, CEO of Hippodrome Casino, closing down for such a long time has meant disaster for their balance sheets as they also tried to support their employees.

“All the stuff done in the name of COVID has a consequence and a cost as well, and it’s business owners like us that are suffering. We want to be back open, we know our customers are desperate to come back and not just exist but start living again.”

These rules will only apply to England, but the Prime Minister is working closely with the devolved governments of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland on lifting measures in the rest of the UK.

Read about 2020’s impact on the gambling industry.

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