As English casinos hope the UK Government does not produce another last-minute U-turn before their scheduled reopening on 15 August, Rank Group’s director of public affairs, David Williams, has urged the importance of a resumption in business for the sector.
Recently, investor Jason Ader told Gambling Insider closures are actually a “blessing in disguise” for casinos, who would simply lose more money if they reopened.
But that is not a view shared by Rank Group, which operates casinos throughout England, and its director of public affiars says delays thus far have been “enormously frustrating.”
Williams told Gambling Insider: “The sooner we can reopen the sooner we can start assessing and responding to the demand-side response across our casinos. It is enormously frustrating to have been cleared for reopening by government scientists only to have the rug pulled from under our feet at the eleventh hour.
“With every week that the shutters stay up on our venues the rate at which we are burning cash increases. The furlough tapering scheme is in play and expressly designed to assist those businesses who are able to start bringing colleagues back to work whilst consumer demands returns. For casinos, it is of no use as we remain closed. It simply adds to our cost base.”
Echoing the thoughts of CEO John O’Reilly, Williams believes Rank Group can achieve a cash-positive position the quicker casinos are allowed to reopen by the UK Government.
“We are confident that the sooner we reopen the sooner we can move to a cash-positive position,” he explained. “It makes no sense to sit on the sidelines when we’ve passed all our fitness tests. We’re very proud of the COVID-safe measures we’ve implemented across our casinos from state of the art ID Scan, which captures the identity and time of entry of every person who enters our clubs, to the new protocols around table games and the Perspex screens we’ve installed.
“Like every entertainment-based business, we know we will face challenges in the weeks and months ahead, but we are keen to meet those challenges head on and the only we can do that is to get open.”
The director also discussed the impact of closures on the operator’s work force, which has now been off work for almost half a year.
“Beyond the purely economic impact of enforced closure and what it does to our cash burn rate, we’re also conscious that thousands of colleagues have effectively been off work for almost five months,” he added.
“They’re straining at the leash to come back to safe venues and start contributing to the reboot of many local economies. Our teams thrive on the community values and camaraderie in our clubs. The sooner we are able to welcome them back, the better our chances of protecting jobs and kickstarting our recovery.”