Dutch casino closures dent bottom line

By Mia Chapman Updated
Dutch online betting legalisation to receive dozens of applications 

Casinos in Europe are grappling with pending changes, as the coronavirus pandemic worsens in the continent.

Calvin Ayre reports Dutch gambling venues have been hit with new restrictions on their hours of operation, while London casinos are trying to fend off fresh curfews.

The Netherlands’ Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport issued a release last Friday, stating that new regional measures to control the spread of coronavirus would be implemented.

The restrictions, which took effect at 6pm on Sunday, require all venues with catering licences to stop accepting guests after midnight and all guests must leave venues by 1am. 

The new rules apply to six venues in geographic regions currently facing “the sharpest increase in coronavirus infections”.

These regions are Amsterdam-Amstelland, Rotterdam-Rijnmond, Haaglanden, Utrecht, Kennemerland and Hollands Midden, which contain most of the country’s major cities, including Amsterdam, Rotterdam and the Hague.

The news is a bitter blow for the state-run Holland Casino, which just last week was celebrating plans to extend operating hours at some venues from 3am to 4am.

The rationale behind this change was that staying open longer allowed the venues to accept more guests under existing COVID-19 restraints, which limit the number of guests allowed inside at any one time to 30 per cent of normal capacity.

Holland Casino was forced to close all 14 venues on March 13 due to the pandemic and only received permission to reopen on July 1.

In August, the company noted its first half sales had fallen 58.7 per cent year-on-year, resulting in a 28.3 million euro loss for the six months ending June 30.

Prior to the shutdown, Holland Casino had been enjoying a 7 per cent revenue rise thanks to a near four per cent rise in customer visitation and more than three per cent increase in customer spend.

Chief financial officer Ruud Bergervoet said this, along with government support, gave the company sufficient liquidity to sustain it through the closure.

Chief executive Erwin van Lambaart said in August that the outlook for the rest of 2020 was “not exactly rosy and for next year extremely uncertain.”

The chief executive said the company was studying all options to ensure it could “remain financially health and future-proof”, promising to issue more precise details by December.

London hopes to be spared from curfew

The UK Betting and Gaming Council is pleading with the government not to include London’s casinos in a planned 10pm curfew for entertainment venues.

London’s 26 casinos sent Mayor Sadiq Khan a letter noting they do up to 70 per cent of their business after 10pm and thus an early close could have a “catastrophic” impact on operations.

The casinos, which were shut down in mid-March along with other non-essential retail, were only allowed to reopen in mid-August, two months after betting shops could reopen.

The casinos have proposed halting the sale of alcohol after 10pm, reasoning that closing their bars will lessen the likelihood of groups congregating in small areas.

The casino also believes their customers’ average age of 48 makes it less likely that their venues will feature the kind of cavalier approach to social distancing associated with younger revellers.

Gaming council chief executive Michael Dugher said his group supported public health initiatives but “a blanket 10pm curfew would be devastating” for an industry only just getting back on its feet after five months of inactivity.

Dugher warned that thousands of casino jobs were on the line and the potential permanent closure could inhibit overall economic rebound.

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