Businesses are finding it tough going all over London and the UK at the moment, but with the business rates relief package set out by Chancellor Rishi Sunak recently, most businesses will get the help they need. Unless you’re a betting shop or a casino that is, who have been told they do not qualify for any of the £330 billion set aside to help those in retail, leisure and hospitality.
What does this mean for the iconic casinos in London such as the Hippodrome in Leicester Square, Grosvenor Victoria, and Genting Cromwell Mint and Rialto?
How to Adapt
Luckily for the casinos mentioned above, they all have the ability to move part of their businesses online. The iGaming industry is booming and has grown rapidly over the last few years, and there are a handful of well-established brands in the UK with large user bases and game offerings. This means that Hippodrome, Grosvenor and Genting can’t compete at the same level but at least there’s a viable alternative to their land casinos.
Why can’t they compete? Well, if you check a few good reviews on 888Casino or any other industry-leading provider, you’ll realise that these sites have a lot more advanced and intuitive online technology, more games, and arguably better bonuses for their players since they’ve been dominating the online casino space for a long time already.
The same goes for betting shops with regards to swapping physical shops for the internet. The likes of Ladbrokes, Coral, and William Hill all have an online presence that includes an online casino, so there’s your betting shop alternative. But it’s not the same, is it? The older punters among us will be especially affected as they still very much enjoy a stroll to their local betting shop to get their bets on.
So, in effect, London casinos don’t necessarily need to panic about their land casinos if they can produce good numbers online. But using the 888Casino example, why would players head over to the likes of online casinos such as Hippodrome, Grosvenor or Genting if there are better options out there? That’s the battle they’re facing. And without a slice of the £330 billion relief package, it’s not going to be an easy ride.
Is Anyone Fighting Their Corner?
Yes is the answer, although whether that will change the Government’s thinking Is another thing. Betting and Gaming Council chief executive Michael Dugher and Chairman Brigid Simmonds OBE put together a letter requesting that the Government rethink their exclusion of casinos and betting shops. Here’s some of the main concerns from the letter:
“In light of the unprecedented economic emergency caused by the coronavirus pandemic, that represents a genuine threat to the survival of many of our businesses, we were extremely encouraged when you told the House of Commons (17 March) you will “do whatever it takes to support our economy through this crisis”. You said: “I am extending this business rates holiday to all businesses in those sectors, irrespective of their rateable value. That means that every single shop, pub, theatre, music venue and restaurant, and any other business in the retail, hospitality or leisure sector, will pay no business rates whatsoever for 12 months”.
“Further, the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, in a written answer to a parliamentary question (19 March), stated that the Government would be “giving all retail, hospitality and leisure businesses in England a 100 per cent business rates holiday for the next 12 months”.
“However, in marked contrast to these statements to Parliament, the Treasury took the decision to exclude our member companies from any form of business rate relief.
“The Business Rates Local Authority Guidance (published 18 March) specifically excludes ‘casinos and gambling clubs’, which presumably includes bingo halls, as well as classifying high street betting shops, in antiquated terms, as being part of ‘financial services’ – despite our members’ clear listing on the London Stock Exchange as part of the leisure industry. Any suggestion that casinos are not part of the leisure industry is frankly bizarre when they provide entertainment, food and drink to millions of people every year.
“We strongly believe that there is cross-party support for you to reconsider this decision and make government support on business rates available to betting shops, casinos and bingo halls. To be absolutely clear: all casinos and betting shops are currently loss-making with most casinos – up to 140 – due to close this weekend and nearly 7,000 high street betting shops expected to close imminently due to the lack of sport and Government guidelines on the need for social distancing.
“If there is no change in the Government‘s approach, within months many casinos will be insolvent and we run the very risk that permanent closures of betting shops will occur. Together these retail businesses support the majority of employment in our industry – around 64,000 jobs. Without the ability to generate revenue from football and horse racing, which account for 75 per cent of the UK licenced sports betting market, these employment costs are unsustainable.
It remains to be seen if the Government will change their stance, but at least most of the land casinos and betting shops have an online alternative. You’ve got to feel sorry for the smaller ones that don’t. But there’s a real threat that London Casinos could close, which would force everything online. While that’s very convenient for a lot of us, losing iconic landmarks in London would be a catastrophe for the area.
Let’s hope casinos can adapt for 2020 and push on as normal in 2021 and beyond. After all, you can’t enjoy fine dining and an after dark cocktail menu from your sofa, can you?
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