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A top health expert has said casinos should be allowed to safely re-open alongside other hospitality venues when Covid restrictions are lifted in Scotland after declaring they are “as safe, if not safer” places to visit than pubs and restaurants.

Dr Lisa Ackerley, who is known as The Hygiene Doctor, carried out an independent study of Grosvenor Casino premises for a report on their anti-Covid measures.

The group is now calling on the Scottish Government to rethink the restrictions imposed on the industry to avoid hundreds of jobs being lost.

Casino businesses – which employ 700 people in Scotland - have invested millions of pounds to ensure venues are safe for staff and customers, including plexiglass screens between gaming tables, ID scanning technology upon entry, hand sanitiser stations and social distancing signs throughout venues.

Under current Scottish Government plans, 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.

Dr Ackerley, who is a Chartered Environmental Health Practitioner, said: “The casino industry has responded to the Covid-19 pandemic by embracing the need to implement a full range of stringent measures to keep staff and customers safe.

“In my opinion, this industry’s response has resulted in it being as safe, if not safer, during the pandemic than many others, for example some other parts of the hospitality sector, where socialising and alcohol consumption is the norm.

“I find that there is no reason for the casino industry to be treated more harshly in terms of lockdown measures than the rest of hospitality; in fact, it can be seen that the measures taken by casinos actually offer more protection to staff and the public. There seems no logical or scientific reason why the casino industry should be closed where pubs and restaurants are allowed to open in Scotland.”

Dr Ackerley’s report is the first of its kind to be produced in the UK and its findings are based on evidence from an independent assessment, undertaken by Food Alert, in venues including Grosvenor Casino’s Edinburgh Maybury and Glasgow Merchant City. Grosvenor Casinos have now been awarded with the Food Alert COVID-19 Secure Certificate.

The report states how casinos should not be treated differently to the rest of the hospitality sector, such as pubs, restaurants, cinemas and amusement arcades, which have largely been able to remain open in Level 2 under the current Scottish Strategic Framework.

Jonathon Swaine, managing director of Grosvenor Casinos, said: “Dr Ackerley’s findings provide objective, scientific evidence that casinos have been treated unfairly and the time has come for the correction to be made. It clearly concludes that forcing casinos to remain closed in level 2 regions, whilst other hospitality businesses can open, is absurd.

“Her report reinforces the commitment and investment taken by an already highly regulated casino industry to leave no stone unturned when it comes to making our venues safe and secure for all of our colleagues and customers.

“We’re now appealing to the First Minister and the Scottish Government to pay heed to this compelling evidence. When parts of the country return to level 2 status, casinos must be allowed to open and the industry deserves to be treated with parity and fairness. All we ask is for an equitable approach to hospitality, based on the highest quality evidence that exists.”

Michael Dugher, chief executive of the Betting and Gaming Council, said: “Ordering the closure of casinos in Level 2 areas in Scotland was a needless blow for the 700 hardworking men and women that they employ.

“Despite repeated invitations, it is regrettable that no Scottish Government official has even visited any of our members’ casinos to see for themselves the excellent anti-Covid measures which they have put in place.

“As Dr Ackerley’s report confirms, casinos are as safe, if not safer, than many other hospitality venues, such as pubs and restaurants, so why are they being treated differently? In England, casinos will be rightly safely reopened when the rest of the hospitality is.

“It is not too late for the Scottish Government to think again, follow the evidence and allow casinos to safely re-open in Level 2.”

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