Despite lowering restrictions in Scotland to Level 0, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has sparked outrage by imposing a midnight curfew on the country’s leisure and hospitality venues.
It’s a huge blow for pubs, bars and casinos, the latter of which enjoys more than half of its flow of customers after 10pm.
The move has been labelled as ‘bizarre’ by many, especially as it will impact significantly on the profitability of a sector that employs thousands of people and pumps hundreds of millions into the government’s coffers in tax.
The move into the Level 0 category in Scotland has been describes as one of the most significant ‘unlocking’ of restrictions yet, with rules changed on social distancing (one metre in all scenarios), the numbers of people that can meet up (10 indoors, 15 outdoors) and the capacity at weddings and funerals (up to 200).
So the continuation of restrictions on casinos have been declared ‘disastrous’ by the chief executive of the Betting and Gaming Council (BGC), Michael Dugher. He said:
“Scottish casino operators have once again had the rug pulled from under their feet by this bizarre decision.
“The casino industry has been forced to withstand a series of inexplicable decisions by politicians within the past year, and is now coming to terms with yet another setback.
“The brutal truth is that a curfew is disastrous for casinos, and we were under the impression that a move to Level 0 would see the curfew finally removed next week, but that’s no longer the case.”
The decision is made all the more galling after casino bosses spent millions on introducing safety measures in their venues, and especially so given that south of the border casinos and late night venues will be allowed to open without restrictions on July 19.
And Dugher bemoaned the Scottish government for pulling the rug on casino operators at the last minute.
“The goalposts have changed time and again, which is grossly unfair on the colleagues and operators who have worked so hard to make casinos Covid-safe.
“Given that casinos do most of their business after 10pm, forcing them to close at midnight is economically self-harming and shows a complete misunderstanding of the casino industry.”
There may only be 15 land-based casinos in Scotland, but these employ hundreds of people. The curfew news is unlikely to aid their job security, with more revenue lost in what has been 16 months of hell for the hospitality sector.
There has been no news on how long the midnight curfew will be in place for, but with case numbers increasing again at an alarming rate it seems highly doubtful that it will be a short term measure.
Sturgeon herself was adamant that keeping some restrictions in place even after announcing the move to Level 0 was essential.
“This is intended to ensure that our pace of easing restrictions is sensible in light of the challenge we continue to face from the Delta variant,” she said.
“There is no doubt that Delta has become, unfortunately, something of a game-changer – even for countries on course to achieving full vaccine protection – so Covid does remain a threat that we must treat seriously.
“The Scottish Government understands the temptation to lift more restrictions more quickly. In our view, and in line with clinical advice and modelling, a gradual approach stands the best chance of minimising further health harm and loss of life.”