First thing’s first: we were delighted when word came through last week that casinos in England had been given the green light to open their doors again on 1 August.
It was the culmination of weeks of hard work and effort as UK casino operators sought to demonstrate to public health officials and the Government that our premises are Covid-secure. From the introduction of Perspex screens to hand sanitisers and best-in-class track and trace systems, no stone was left unturned in ensuring that casinos are safe for staff and customers alike.
We can now look forward to welcoming back customers while also playing our part in getting the UK economy back on track. Let’s not forget, casinos contribute over £5 million a week to the Treasury – vital revenue that helps to pay for the public services that we all rely on.
In Scotland alone there are 11 casinos employing nearly 800 people, so the economic contribution should not be underestimated.
Like businesses the length and breadth of the country, we closed our doors in March to slow the spread of the coronavirus. We were happy to play our part in this national effort. After all, public health must come first. But our employees – who have been on furlough throughout the past four months – now deserve to know when they will be able to return to work.
We understand that casinos in Wales, like those in England, are also set to re-open early next month. So it’s disappointing, to say the least, that in Scotland, casinos still have no idea when they will be able to open again. That’s despite us following the same safety guidelines as our colleagues in the rest of the United Kingdom. Our fear is that unless we get good news soon, we will be forced to close for good. That would obviously be terrible news for our loyal employees and customers, but the knock-on effect to the wider economy in our area would be devastating.
To give some context, the Alea Casino is situated at Springfield Quay in Glasgow, which is a mixed use retail and leisure development on the banks of the River Clyde. The casino is one of the main anchors of the site. There is also a Mecca Bingo on the development, and while many businesses have closed around us in recent years, we have continued to drive traffic to the area. People come to us from across the city to enjoy our stunning restaurant and bars, and spend a fun evening with friends.
I believe that, if we were to permanently close, it would be much harder to attract other businesses to the area. Ultimately, the viability of the entire scheme could be jeopardised. The repercussions for our casino and the wider area would be extremely serious.
Fortunately, it’s not too late. There is still time for the Scottish Government to give casinos in Scotland the go-ahead to get back to business. It makes no sense for Scottish casinos to stay closed while those in the rest of the UK are able to trade.
Ministers need to recognise the efforts we have made to meet all the necessary safety requirements and let us open our doors soon, because if they don’t then jobs will go and the wider Scottish economy will suffer the consequences for a long time to come.
Alex Oswald is Managing Director of Caesars Entertainment EMEA