UK casinos will not be allowed to open as expected under original government plans.
They were forced to shut down on March 23 because of the COVID-19, and a recent announcement by the prime minister has disappointed yet again those keen to get back to dealing the cards.
Prime minister Boris Johnson said on July 4 that some leisure and hospitality businesses were allowed to reopen, but casinos were not included among them.
UK casinos were scheduled to reopen on August 1 and England. However, on July 31 Johnson announced that they will remain closed until August 15 "at the earliest" after the government decided to postpone further easing of lockdown measures.
The delay affects not only casinos but also bowling alleys, skating rinks, big wedding and party receptions, and other "higher-risk settings". A list of other restrictions on social gatherings were imposed, which Johnson said were required to avoid a return to full national lockdown. He said, "We should now squeeze the brake pedal in order to keep the virus under control. We must keep our focus and we can't be complacent."
A stinging statement on the UK government's refusal to allow England casinos to reopen as scheduled on August 1 has been delivered by Simon Thomas, CEO of the Hippodrome, London's biggest casino.
He said, "It was an appalling, harmful, expensive, wasteful, illogical, last-minute decision. Reopening a business of our size is a complex process that takes weeks of preparation - you don't just switch on the lights.
"We have taken hundreds of our staff off furlough and retrained them. We have prepared the business with full hygiene and safety measures; our kitchens, bars and gaming rooms are stocked and ready to open.
"The investment in reopening a business like mine - the largest entertainment venue in the West End of London - is frankly enormous. And putting it on hold also costs significant amounts.
"And the impact on my staff is significant; most have been off for months and bringing them back in has given them an emotional boost. The disappointment here now is profound. We also had hundreds of customers excited to be allowed to come back to a place they enjoy, who are likewise disappointed.
Importantly, during lockdown we continued with a major £3m infrastructure project to triple the size of our outdoor terrace, surely the best indication of our confidence in London and our determination to rebuild our business after lockdown. That confidence is starting to look questionable in the light of the government's actions.
The stated government strategy is let businesses reopen and have local reaction to local issues. Is the government now abandoning this strategy? There is no logic to this. Nothing has changed in London and this kind of decision should continue to be made on a case by case basis dependant on location, not sector. If there are problems in Manchester, close premises in Manchester, not a whole sector across the country.
The party line is that the government will follow evidence and heed medical advice, yet casinos are lower risk than many sectors that have already reopened. The relevant government departments have confirmed they are happy with casinos' Covid-19 safe preparations and policies, and have given casinos their approval to reopen.
All in all I gutted and am feeling very let down by the government."