With governments around the world trying to ease lockdown restrictions and slowly allowing places of leisure and hospitality to resume business, the 4th of July was the much anticipated date on which licensed casino operators in England expected to reopen their places of business. In late June, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that hospitality businesses such as museums, cinemas, pubs, hotels and cafes could reopen but only if they met the stiff health and safety measures. On 15th June betting shops were reopened and when 4th of July arrived, only bingo halls were reopened, leaving casinos closed. The chief executive of Rank Group, John O’Reilly is one of those that voiced their disbelief at the stand of the UK Government, which in a turn of events allowed for bingo venues to resume operations while still restricting the closely related casino businesses. Inexplicably, no clear justifications have been given on the same.
The Grosvenor Casino, based in the United Kingdom, is a chain of 5 casinos located in major cities and towns across the UK. The casino operates under The Rank Group, its parent organization, and was established in 1970. It is currently believed to have employed over 6,349 people. Being one of the United Kingdom’s largest land-based casino, Grosvenor leads in the push for casino reopening alongside bingo giant, Mecca. Even though casinos have been on halt, you can still play here at Grosvenor. The two had even gone ahead to ensure their venues are Corona virus proofed, in line with government imposed guidelines and safeguards, by working hand in hand with DCM officials and the Betting and Gaming Council. The baffling bit came when Mecca was green-lit to resume operations on the 4th of July while casino doors were to remain closed. This exclusion came as a blow for Grosvenor and has left many in the business trying to understand the situation.
John O’Reilly’s plea
The Rank Group Chief Executive made clear his push for reopening saying he was keen to encourage the relevant decision makers and government officials to visit the casino venues for first hand insight into what they are able to guarantee for colleagues and customers. He further added that their casinos have been fully kitted out with social distancing and many more safety measures within COVID-19 safety guidelines. Perspex dividers have been installed between all machines, seating positions at tables and bars. Furthermore, chips are to be cleaned and Cards disposed after use. Hand sanitizer stations have been installed alongside appropriate signage for social distancing and hand washing. O’Reilly went on to explain how a lot of time, money and effort had been put in over 3 months to accomplish these high standards of COVID safety and that the government needs to understand the impact of keeping the casino business on hold. This plea has recently been backed and strengthened by Matt Rudd, the general manager Grosvenor Casino Birmingham. He also voiced his frustration, having overseen the enormous efforts to make Grosvenor Casinos meet the high standards set for COVID safety. This comes at a time when Google searches for coronavirus symptoms rise sparking fears of a second wave. More voices within the industry are coming up to push for casino reopening.
Impact of Casino Restrictions
John O’Reilly wanted the HM Treasury to understand and acknowledge the impact of keeping the Grosvenor Casino’s doors closed. He went on to give an estimate where at present, Rank is burning through £10 million every month. He also reminded them that Rank was tax compliant and contributed up £1.5 million every week but that their casinos may not be able to contribute to their tax receipts now that their businesses are closed. Current restrictions have made it hard for Rank as keeping Grosvenor Casinos closed is also draining the liquidity on their balance sheets. They are also now greatly relying on government furlough for their 4600 colleagues. Matt Rudd added, “We are reliant on the government furlough scheme and we are not really contributing to the local entertainment scene in this part of the city. That is what we are about and what we miss most.” This however cannot be kept up for much longer and could see many lose their jobs in the long run, in spite of efforts by Rank executives, the GMB, trade unions and Unite labour unions to try and bring all employees back to work.
Time is of the essence
This is a point of emphasis for John O’Reilly who said that the company is doing its best to limit redundancies in the summer months by planning to rebuild consumer demand. He claimed that putting this plan to action would however be a daunting task that kept getting harder for the company by the day. His remarks were, “Obviously, this plan is harder and harder to execute with every week that passes with our casinos still shuttered up.”
Review of Government decision
The ongoing pandemic has not only impacted our health but also businesses and economies. Grosvenor Casinos is one such victim. Perhaps this is the reason why Google searches for the coronavirus are four times higher than for the super bowl. According to Rank Group’s boss, the decision to keep casinos closed could result in heavy job losses. This is why he asked the UK Government to swiftly reconsider its decision. He asked relevant government authorities to recognize the safety measures they have put in place including identifying customers and who they have interacted with. Grosvenor Casinos also wants to be included the next time a reopening opportunity is discussed. O’Reilly closed his remarks saying, if the government decision was reviewed and the restriction on casino operations lifted, Grosvenor would be able to quickly return its employees back to work, while providing clients with an Ultra safe and rewarding experience in their casinos. They would also be able to reverse the incurred economic burden that is quite costly for both the company and the government and becomes harder to manage with each passing day.
Grosvenor land-based casinos are keen and ready to be reopened. They have gone to great lengths to make sure they are ready for operation under COVID restrictions and ensure safety for both colleagues and clients. The company is however falling into crisis with the UK Government still not allowing for casinos to reopen. According to John O’Reilly, if this situation does not change soon, this could prove detrimental for Grosvenor Casino and even lead to casino job losses. The UK Government hasn’t responded yet but hopes remain high that clients will soon be able to grace the casino floors and consequently save Grosvenor. Recently, government officials visited their Rialto Casino in Central London, in response to O’Reilly’s remarks. According to Matt Rudd, the visit went well and he is keeping his fingers crossed that casinos will soon receive some good news.