England casinos receive news about post lockdown plans
England is one step closer to exiting its nationwide lockdown, with Prime Minister Boris Johnson announcing the country will come out of its national lockdown and move back into a tiered system from December 3.
Cards Chat reports that when the national lockdown comes to an end, casinos and betting shops in certain tiers will be allowed to reopen.
The announcement marks the return to a policy previously dismissed as ineffective by the government, but which is returning amid mounting pressure from members of parliament and the general public.
Ahead of the announcement, members of the Betting and Gaming Council offered to make more concessions than required.
In letters to Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove and Health Secretary Matt Hancock, casino operators said they would implement more safety features.
Their aim was to facilitate the reopening of casinos and betting shops, even in areas under the tightest COVID-19 restrictions.
Prior to the current national lockdown, all non-essential businesses in Tier 3 regions, including casinos and betting shops, had to close.
Venues in Tier 1 and 2 regions remained open.
The latest plea from BGC members called for all venues to remain open, regardless of location.
“The unprecedented offer came as it emerged that six casinos have closed their doors for good this year, with one operator forced to cut its workforce by more than 40 per cent,” the BGC press statement said
Among the self restrictions proposed, casinos in England offered to stop selling alcohol and close off all table games.
This would mean only soft drinks and pokie machines were available in Tier 3 regions.
The offer, like many others, has fallen on deaf ears.
Casinos and betting shops in Tier 3 regions won’t be allowed to open, even if they implement their own restrictions following Johnson’s announcement.
For venues in Tier 1 and 2 regions, it will be business, but not quite as usual.
Social distancing measures must remain in place and casinos and betting shops will have to close at 11pm.
Members of the industry are now waiting to find out which tier each region in England will be assigned.
The one glimmer of light in an otherwise dull forecast is the fact crowds can return to sporting events.
In Tier 1, outdoor events such as horse racing can host 50 per cent of a venue’s capacity, up to a maximum of 4,000 people.
Similarly, indoor events can have up to 1,000 spectators, despite the fact people aren’t allowed to socialise with others inside their own homes.
Ministers will review the tier system every 14 days.
This means regions can be moved in and out of various tiers at the government’s will until March 2021.
William Hill to close 119 UK betting shops
Popular bookmaker William Hill said it is shutting 119 betting shops in the UK.
Yahoo News reported in August that the company, which has 1,500 UK outlets said it did not expect customers to return in the numbers seen before the COVID-19 pandemic.
It said about 300 staff were impacted and most had been redeployed elsewhere.
William Hill said it is repaying 24.5 million pounds of UK furlough funds as trade has recovered well post-lockdown.
Its comments come as it reported pre-tax profits of 141 million pounds in the first six months of 2020, compared with a loss of 63 million pounds last year.
Its revenues fell by a third though, to 554 million pounds, reflecting the impact of lockdown and so many sporting events cancelled.
William Hill employs 7,000 people in the UK and a further 5,000 people in 9 other countries.
In a statement, the bookmaker said: “We anticipate that longer term retail footfall will not return to pre-COVID levels and 119 UK shops will remain closed following early lease breaks, with the majority of colleagues redeployed within the estate.”
Fewer than 20 people will not be redeployed.
The company said trading had been strong before the pandemic, but when the lockdown came in, it had controlled costs “effectively” and was recovering well.
Its presence on the High Street and town centres was already receding.
Last year, William Hill said it was cutting 700 shops after new regulations cut the size of a stake in fixed-odds betting terminals, gaming machines in shops, from 100 pounds to 2 pounds.
Partner at Begbies Traynor Julie Palmer said a spike in bored consumers trying online gaming provided some respite and much-needed revenue for the company to target.
“The business will need to continue developing its technology platform and product offering if it is to regain some of the lost revenue from the past few months, in what is a competitive market.”
William Hill plans to expand further in the US, where new opportunities are arising as the country’s previously strict gambling rules are relaxed in some states.
It said its international online business grew 17 per cent and added it now had almost a third of all US sports betting.
Chief executive Ulrik Bengtsson said: “I am delighted with William Hill’s performance in these extraordinary times. Our team has been remarkable, supporting each other and our customers throughout the pandemic.”
“The furlough scheme provided welcome and timely support, and meant we could protect the jobs of our 7,000 UK retail colleagues. Therefore, given the strength of our recovery post-lockdown, we have decided to repay the furlough funds.”