BGC CONDEMNS ‘BAFFLING’ SCOTTISH GOVERNMENT DECISION TO ‘SINGLE OUT’ CASINOS FROM REST OF HOSPITALITY SECTOR
Standards body the Betting and Gaming Council has condemned the Scottish Government’s refusal to let casinos re-open alongside the rest of Scotland’s hospitality sector.
In a letter to First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, BGC chief executive Michael Dugher said the “baffling” move had left the 700 men and women they employ in limbo.
He said there was no scientific reason for “singling out” casinos – which have spent millions of pounds making themselves Covid-secure – when venues like pubs and restaurants have been told can re-open from April 26.
By contrast, casinos have only been told they can re-open in “early June”.
Mr Dugher pointed to an independent report by Dr Lisa Ackerley, a chartered environmental health practitioner, which said casinos were “as safe, if not safer” than other hospitality venues.
This is because of the anti-Covid measures they have introduced, such as plexiglass screens between gaming tables, ID scanning technology upon entry, hand sanitiser stations and social distancing signs throughout venues.
Under current Scottish Government policy, casinos would only be allowed to re-open in Level 1 areas, whereas other hospitality venues like pubs and restaurants can do so in Level 2 zones.
But in the letter to Ms Sturgeon, Mr Dugher said: “The singling out of casino businesses within the hospitality sector for not being able to open in Level 2 areas, alongside the rest of their peer group, is baffling and, on an evidence-based approach, without justification.
“Our casino members in Scotland are at a complete loss as to understand the decision not to allow them to reopen alongside venues such as pubs, restaurants, cinemas, bingo halls and high street arcades. Please can you explain the scientific basis of this decision?”
He added: “I appeal to you to pay heed to the compelling evidence. When parts of the country return to level 2 status, casinos should be allowed to open alongside other hospitality venues. These businesses deserve to be treated with parity and fairness. All they expect is an equitable approach to hospitality, based on the highest quality evidence that exists.
“Ordering the continued closure of casinos in Level 2 areas in Scotland would be a needless blow for the 700 hardworking men and women that they employ, as well as economically self-harming, given the £30m in tax they pay per year in normal times.”
Mr Dugher also pointed out that, unlike other businesses, Scottish casinos have been denied business rates relief during the pandemic.
“It will come as no surprise to you that taking all these circumstances into account the casino operators in Scotland are currently seeking advice in the event that casinos are singled out contrary to the clear evidence,” he said.
“At the very least, if casinos are not put into Level 2 this week, they should as a matter of urgency be given a clear date for reopening.”