While the country debates whether students should be allowed home for Christmas, my casino friends and I debate whether we will still have a job come December 25.
I am of course fully supportive and aware of the collective effort needed to keep the country safe during the pandemic, but for casinos not to be allowed to open despite the range of anti-Covid measures we have in place seems like an illogical decision to me.
Since we first closed our doors at the start of the pandemic, like many in the hospitality industry, it’s been a huge worry for us and for our families.
However, whilst the casinos were closed, the company that we work for and love, Grosvenor, worked tirelessly to ensure we were fully prepared to open our doors and host our customers in the safest way possible.
I must admit, when I came back in after being on furlough, I couldn’t believe how far we’d gone. With limited capacity in the venues, four people to a gaming table, screens between every player plus a one-way system, we had really taken social distancing seriously. Not only that, myself and my colleagues all had to go through a retraining program which included cleaning procedures and the most arduous – but obviously important – procedure for cleaning every single gaming chip. But when it comes to the safety of customers and staff, you simply cannot afford to cut corners.
I can honestly say that since returning to work in the summer, I have felt safer than I do in any other venue I’ve been in – including pubs, restaurants and supermarkets. So you can imagine how upsetting it was to be told that we were being closed down again last month.
What I just can’t understand is why our industry, ,and the jobs within it, are being put at serious risk when our safety procedures are as good as – if not better than – other businesses that can stay open. Don’t get me wrong, I am grateful for the support of the furlough scheme, and now the Job Security Scheme. But for the sake of my wallet, my mental health and my job security, I need to get back to work. I want to see my casino family and meet the customers that I am proud to call friends, not live each day in limbo, worrying and stressing about what the future may hold.
My message to the Scottish Government is a simple one. Let us open our doors again – safely, of course – so we can do our bit in helping the country recover from the pandemic. We’ve shown that we can do it without contributing to the spread of the virus. It’s time to let us get on with our jobs.
Paul Strachan is a Gaming Supervisor at The Riverboat casino in Glasgow, where he has worked for 14 years.