John O’Reilly: UK government needs to act now to avoid casino job losses

John O’Reilly, Chief Executive of Rank Group, has stated his disbelief at the UK government refusing to allow England’s casinos to reopen on 4 July, as previously anticipated and prepared for by licensed operators.

Rank’s CEO branded the government’s latest easing orders on leisure and hospitality venues as ‘baffling’ and ‘incoherent’, with the government allowing England’s bingo venues to reopen but maintaining lockdown measures for casino counterparts with no justification regarding the judgement.

Leading the UK’s biggest land-based casino and bingo incumbent, O’Reilly underlined that Grosvenor and Mecca venues had collaborated with Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) and DCMS officials in ensuring that all venues are ‘Covid proofed’.

“Being excluded from the 4th July tranche of businesses, therefore, came as a blow,” O’Reilly said. “We’re struggling to understand the rationale but rather than dwell on the injustice of the decision, I am keen to encourage members of the government and key decision-makers to come and witness, first-hand, what we are able to safely guarantee for colleagues and customers.”

Taking direct action, O’Reilly stated that the HM Treasury must understand the consequences of leaving casino businesses ‘on the sidelines’, which at present sees Rank burn a cash rate of £10 million per month, even accounting for digital revenues.

O’Reilly reminded the Treasury that prior to lockdown, Rank’s land-based operations contributed tax in the region of £1.5 million per week.

He continued: “For every day that our Grosvenor casinos remain closed, the liquidity on our balance sheet is being drained. At the same time, we remain reliant on the Government’s furlough payments for the vast majority of our 4600 Grosvenor colleagues which is costing c.£1.5 million every week.

Moving forward, O’Reilly stated that Rank executives are working with labour unions Unite and GMB, with the intention of bringing all employees back to work, and off furlough as soon as possible.

Following the government’s decision, O’Reilly emphasised that time is of the essence, as the company seeks to avoid any redundancies in the summer months, in which it plans to rebuild consumer demand: “Obviously, this plan is harder and harder to execute with every week that passes with our casinos still shuttered up.

“In short, we are asking the Government to quickly review the decision to keep casinos closed, to recognise the safety measures that are in place including our ability to identify every customer on our premises and who they may have interacted with, and to include us – as soon as possible – when the next opportunity for reopening is discussed.

“In doing so, we’ll swiftly bring colleagues back to work who are itching to get back to work, we’ll give customers an ultra-safe and rewarding experience in our venues, and we’ll start to reverse the economic burden that is costing both government and our business more and more with each passing day.”

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