A stinging attack on the UK government’s refusal to permit casinos in England to reopen on schedule last week has been delivered by Simon Thomas, CEO of the Hippodrome, London’s largest casino.
He told InterGaming: “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.”