Rishi Sunak has been urged to give the green light for casinos to finally re-open later this month in order to boost Treasury coffers and help kickstart the economy.
The venues were dealt a huge blow last month when ministers ruled that they could not open their doors again on 4 July, having been closed since the start of lockdown in March.
It meant that thousands of casino staff remained on furlough – costing the Exchequer around £5m a week.
The closures mean the Treasury is also missing out on vast revenues, with casinos last year paying £5.7m each week in tax and duties.
Casinos have invested heavily to ensure their premises are covid-secure, with measures such as perspex screens, santisation equipment and sophisticated track and trace systems, as well as introducing other changes and strict social distancing measures.
Now the Chancellor has been urged to use Wednesday’s statement on how he plans to reboot the UK economy after Covid-19 to get the businesses – which employ more than 14,000 people and also contribute nearly £4m a week to the tourism economy – back up and running. In an open letter to the Chancellor, Betting and Gaming Council chief executive Michael Dugher says the sector is ready to help get the UK economy back on its feet again as soon as it gets the green light from the Government.
Mr Dugher says: “The UK casino sector were sorely disappointed not to be included in the list of industries allowed to reopen on 4 July. “The support from HM Treasury, such as the Job Retention Scheme, has been extremely welcome, however support for casinos is costing the Exchequer around £5 million per week while they are closed.
“Casinos want to get back in business and once again contributing to the economy, not costing the Exchequer money. Last year, casinos paid over £5.7m million in tax per week. “With phased reductions in wage support kicking in soon, there is however a real fear that if reopening doesn’t happen in July there will be severe damage caused to the casino industry.
“To our knowledge, casinos have met all Covid safety requirements and yet they are still not permitted to open. We urgently ask for your help to get casinos reopened and back to contributing to the UK economy.” The letter adds: “The cost of remaining in a reopening ‘holding pattern’ is significantly higher as it means businesses are kept in a state of preparedness, including maintaining the premises for reopening, cleaning, restocking supplies and staffing.
The letter also points out that casinos across Europe have already re-opened, despite having to meet less stringent anti-Covid measures than those in the UK. “Having made the necessary preparations for a July reopening, casinos are ready and able to open at the earliest opportunity,” Mr Dugher says. “We would greatly appreciate any help you can give to get our businesses back open and contributing to the UK economy.”
Image: Betting and Gaming Council Chief Executive Michael Dugher