Another wave of shutdowns in the capital of Great Britain aroused indignation among the industry participants. It isn’t surprising as the recent casino news confirms that the land-based casino market has been damaged immensely by COVID-19’s consequences.
In addition to the lockdown, when the gambling industry had suffered much, a new coronavirus’ strain caused one more challenge for the market. Due to the surge of COVID-19 in London, the city’s local government body decided to tighten restrictions and introduce specific measures to prevent the virus from outspread.
The shutdown is a big threat to the industry
Not so much time passed after permission for casinos to continue their operation. Brick-and-mortar gambling establishments were allowed to open their doors for visitors on December 2. Until this date, London casinos had a very unstable period. They went under lockdown in March, waited until August to reopen, were closed again in November, and, finally, returned to normality in December. However, now, they are enforced to roll back again, despite all efforts casinos have done to make gambling safe.
“London casinos have closed again on December 16, having only re-opened at the start of the month after a month-long lockdown. Before that, they were subject to an 11 pm curfew, which was still having a material impact on revenues. Given that the majority of revenues are generated after 10 pm. With the casinos having been shut entirely between March and August, again for November, and now an indefinite closure as it looks unlikely that London will move out of Tier 3 for the foreseeable future, this latest lockdown is going to put extra pressure on the industry that has seen the greatest impact from the pandemic out of any within the gambling sector. To put this into context, in the year to the end of March 31, 2021, H2 estimates that land-based casino gross win in the UK will be down 77%, compared to the year ending March 31, 2020,” said Ed Birkin, gambling consultant.
“We are sorry that this third closure has been imposed after making such strenuous efforts to ensure the safety of both staff and guests. We have high levels of positive feedback about the measures we, and other casinos, have put into making people feel safe. I am confident that we will bounce back once the vaccine programme is in full swing,” Tony Gibbons, MD at Aspers Casino Group, commented on the shutdown.
Of course, the situation is critical for London-based casinos, especially during the festive time. Christmas holidays urge people to search for entertainment, and it is the period when the HoReCa business is in demand. This year, the vertical will incur losses during holidays as not only casinos but also restaurants and bars will remain closed for customers.
The UK Department of Health and Social Care gives reasons for this decision stating that the new COVID-19 strain is spreading faster than its predecessor, which means higher risks for the country’s citizens to get infected. That is why the ministry has the intention to keep public places safe, and the shutdown is the only way out, according to its representatives.
However, some gambling industry experts also see other reasons for this:
“Unfortunately, London casinos have been closed yet again. I suspect that we will see this happening on and off for many months yet to come as COVID-19 will be with us. The bad reputation of the gambling industry, which has been promoted by some in the land-based casino industry in order to attack the online gambling sector, is now causing politicians to ignore the land-based casino industry's demands. We can be pretty certain that once COVID-19 is over the land-based casino industry in the UK will look very different,” said Steve Donoughue, gambling consultant.
What is more interesting, the restrictions won’t apply to all the gambling industry verticals. For example, the betting sector won’t be so limited as casinos. It has been revealed that bookmaking shops are permitted to have visitors but with a set of rules, which apply to capacity and services, first of all.
“The reason why bookmakers can stay open and casinos can’t is because bookmakers operate during the day and casinos operate during the late night/early morning. There is a belief in government that late night entertainment tends to be accompanied by alcohol, which, in turn, means people are less likely to socially distance, and it makes the risk of COVID-19 spreading higher. Bookmakers also have the advantage of their business helping fund horseracing that has a lot of the Parliamentary support. Casinos do not support any other good cause in the same way,” said Steve Donoughue.
Also, experts don’t make positive prognoses about the further situation in London. Moreover, many of them are sure that the casino industry should be ready for more closures in the future. According to Steve Donoughue, it is expected that a lot of gambling establishments will be forced to close down a business:
“This shutdown will not be the last, and I can see an enormous amount of land-based entertainment businesses being forced to close. Many, like theatres, museums, galleries, etc., will get government loans to stay open. Unfortunately, the gambling industry is not considered worthy enough to receive such support. The land-based gambling business will be radically different by this time next year with many operators closing. It will be the end for many but an opportunity for some.”
Read more: Top UK online casinos
Read more: How is online gambling in Europe regulated?