Casinos have offered to stop selling alcohol in order to avoid catastrophic closures which could lead to thousands of job losses.
The venues – which employ 14,000 people and raised £1.3bn for the Treasury in the last three years – fear being forced to close their doors once again in the latest round of Covid restrictions being introduced by the Government.
Boris Johnson is next week expected to announce a new three-tier system of local lockdowns which could see hospitality businesses ordered to close for weeks in an attempt to bring down infection rates.
Casinos in England and Wales have said that a similar move south of the border would be disastrous for a sector already reeling from the effects of the first lockdown earlier this year.
They were only allowed to re-open again in August – having won Public Health England’s backing for their best-in-class anti-Covid measures – before being hit by the 10pm curfew on hospitality and leisure venues last month.
That has seen casino revenues down by up to 70 per cent compared to 12 months ago.
In a last-ditch bid to avoid closure, the sector has said it is prepared to stop selling alcohol altogether to ensure their omission from the list of businesses being ordered to close.
Michael Dugher, chief executive of the Betting and Gaming Council, has now written to every MP urging them to lobby the Government to allow casinos to stay open.
Mr Dugher said: “Casinos have already proved, thanks to their world class track and trace systems, the use of Perspex screens, hand sanitisers and strict social distancing rules, that they are Covid-secure according to Public Health England.
“There are relatively few casinos, we know that their impact on Covid is negligible and they have in fact operated perfectly safely since re-opening in August. There are no public health grounds to order their closure now.
“Ministers need to understand that casinos are not pseudo-nightclubs or places where young people go to drink. Nevertheless, they are willing to reduce their risk levels even further by refusing to serve alcohol, which the Government seems to think is another factor in the spread of the virus.
“In light of all of this, I would urge ministers to be reasonable and allow casinos to remain safely open and continue to play their part in raising desperately-needed tax revenues for the Treasury, whilst also stopping the spread of the coronavirus.”
The plea follows Nicola Sturgeon’s announcement of the closure of hospitality venues – including casinos – across the central belt of Scotland, which includes Glasgow and Edinburgh.
Responding to Nicola Sturgeon’s announcement of further Covid restrictions on Scotland’s hospitality sector, a spokesperson for the Betting and Gaming Council said:
“This news will come as a huge blow to casinos in Scotland, which only reopened their doors in August and who have been trying to rebuild their businesses since then.
“However, we welcome the First Minister’s announcement of financial help for the hospitality sector, and call on the Scottish Government to ensure it gets to the businesses that need it most – including casinos – as quickly as possible.”
Caption: The bar area at the newly opened Napoleons Casino in Manchester