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CEO of Hippodrome hits out Casinos remain closed

The top boss of one of the country’s biggest casinos has branded the decision to keep the industry’s doors closed as “completely illogical” – as he warned Government needs to take a “more informed decision” about what sectors to reopen.

Simon Thomas, Chief Executive of The Hippodrome in London said casinos are relatively easy to clean, make Covid secure and can adhere to all Public Health England requirements.

He said it was “completely illogical” the 120 casinos across the country were still closed but bingo halls, arcades and betting shops were part of the July 4 reopening dubbed Super Saturday.

Mr Thomas said: “If there is the need for gradual easing, to have casinos as one of the last one is bizarre. Compare us with bingo halls, casinos are not sessional, and people are not going in lumps. The customers are also relatively younger in a casino, the average age is 30s, whereas bingo halls are quite a lot older, certainly more in the higher risk groups and just taking those two reasons if there was gradual easing it should be the other way around.”

He made the comments to former cabinet minister and Tatton MP Esther McVey on her latest Blue Collar Conversations podcast, looking at why some industries could open over others.

Mr Thomas does not think the industry has been discriminated against but is “misunderstood” with decision makes unsure of the nature of casinos.

He added: “There is some logic to a gradual easing, but the Government should be taking a more informed decision as to what parts to open first. Opening pubs and restaurants ahead of casinos is curious to say the least.”

The sector employs about 14,000 staff nationwide in the 120 casinos and the Hippodrome alone 750. Mr Thomas said the uncertainty has caused some casinos to announce closures and the industry believed it would be reopening on July 4.

“Uncertainty is an expensive commodity. We were expecting to reopen on July 4 we were restocking bars, restaurants and taking people out of furlough, increasing our cost,” he said.

“I appreciate it is difficult for the Government as there is a lot of unknowns, clarity and information would be very helpful to help us manage through this process and open as soon as we can.”

Undoubtedly one of the most famous casinos in the world, the Hippodrome has lost millions since lockdown.

Mr Thomas said: “There is a relatively high tax take per customers and a relatively large amount of that is foreign income. A number of casinos have already confirmed closure but at the Hippodrome we are losing a million pounds a month even after the furlough scheme and that impact must be going all the way through the supply chain. It is not a very comfortable place to be.”

All safety measures are in place and when the doors reopen just 20 per cent of legal capacity will be allowed in. Other measures taken included reducing number of players at the tables, reduced seating, changed floor layout for social distancing, a cleaning regime, stopping customers touching playing cards during gambling games, frequent use of hand sanitiser and flexi glass where 2 metres cannot be kept.

Casinos are already open in every major European city. 

Ms McVey has spoken to many businesses frustrated they were not included in the partial reopening of the country this month and has raised the matter with Government ministers, urging clarity.

She said: “Businesses need certainty and they need to have hope they will be allowed to reopen as soon as possible. We were able to provide hairdressers and pubs with a date week in advanced and that was obviously based on looking at the science and infection rate so I do not understand why we cannot offer the same hope to other businesses. Everyone accepts if there is a second wave, which we all hope there is not, things may have to change, but while infection rates and cases are continuing to fall, I see no reason industries cannot have the answers they so desperately need.

My message to government is this, if we want to support jobs, support apprenticeships and support the high street and get the economy going, allow these Covid compliant businesses to reopen ending the arbitrary choice of who is allowed to trade.

“We cannot keep Covid compliant businesses closed as otherwise our towns and cities will remain empty and we will see incredible job losses as a consequence.”

To listen to the podcast visit http://bluecollar.buzzsprout.com/