How COVID-19 has impacted Lancashire’s casino scene and the regional economy

The county of Lancashire lies in the north-west of England and has the city of Preston, which sits on the north bank of the River Ribble, as its administrative centre. It’s a popular county thanks to well-known towns and cities such as Blackpool, Blackburn and Lancaster, not to mention the city of Manchester, which is located just outside of the county but, historically, used to be part of it (and some still consider it to be). Lancashire isn’t only popular just because of its towns and cities, but also because of its lively gambling scene. Below is a look at the scene in the county and how it and Lancashire have fared during this difficult year.

The casino scene in Lancashire

Blackpool is the place to go for casinos in Lancashire. The lively seaside town has four different casinos — Grosvenor G Casino Blackpool, Genting Club Blackpool, Paris Casino and Coral Island Casino — and was on the hunt for a licence to host a ‘super casino’ some years ago. Unfortunately, Manchester pipped it to the post and the town missed out. At the time, the local economy was flagging, with holidaymakers shunning Blackpool to catch their rays in European destinations. The presence of a super casino would have breathed new life into it.

Missing out on the super casino may have stung Blackpool and wider Lancashire, but it’s not all bad news for the country. In 2016, Preston city council approved plans for a £10 million hotel, casino and spa, which would occupy an old tower block that was no longer in use. The tower block consists of 15 floors and rooms would get bigger as the tower grew higher.

How COVID-19 has hit the regional economy

Like many other parts of the UK, Lancashire’s economy has felt the brutal impact of COVID-19. The county has asked the Government for £2 million to help repair the damage the pandemic has done to parts of its economy. Eighty-two business folded in May alone and, during the pandemic, 19 000 people have lost their jobs.

Preston city council has been reeling from the effects of the pandemic but has received £1.5 million so far in grants to help cope with them. According to Preston city counsellor Martyn Rawlinson, the city economy had been on the up before COVID-19 struck. Now the fear is of the long-term effects of the damage, as more people work from home and buildings and car parks remain empty.

Casinos have suffered during lockdown, since they’ve been closed a couple of weeks longer than other betting establishments, such as bookmakers and bingo halls, which the Government allowed to welcome back customers. This is largely because No 10 (and its counterpart governments) consider casinos to be high risk venues and, due to fears of a second wave, pushed back re-opening of them.

Finally, though, the Government has given them permission to re-open, so casinos can heave a sigh of relief — as can the 12 000 people who depend on them for work — and, gradually, try to pick up from where they left off. That won’t be easy. They’ll have to implement strict safety measures. Not only this, some could also have to close down again, due to local lockdowns that authorities have ordered in parts of Lancashire and wider north-east England.

Closures and mobile gaming

Despite the opening of casinos, there will still be fears in Lancashire. One of the casino operators, Genting Casinos, has announced it could potentially close three clubs in the south of England — Torquay, Margate and Bristol — due to the outbreak and make redundancies at all of its clubs across the UK.

Mobile gaming may also be compounding the pain of the brick-and-mortar casinos, as players shift online to play their casino games during the lockdown. Searches for online casinos have hit a high because of closures and cancellation of sporting events. The Huffington Post online, reporting figures from the UK Gambling Commission, wrote that gambling on online slots during the pandemic has increased by 25%. The question is whether people will return to the casinos, now that they’ve tried the online gaming experience.

Online casino sites are convenient for players, allowing them to play anywhere at any time. They have a large quantity of game selection ranging from games such as online slots to roulette. Blackjack is one of the most popular online games too, with many players opting to play this game on an online casino site. Online casinos have the benefit of offering many different bonuses and promotions to draw in their customers. The technology powered by gambling providers allows them to be able to offer the best graphics and sounds, alongside new developments such as live roulette, so players can have a feel for a land casino however in the comfort of their own home.

What does the future hold for Lancashire’s casinos?

The news that Genting Casino plans to slash jobs isn’t exactly heartening, but there is hope for casinos. They just need to take a look at their cousins across the Atlantic. The Vegas casinos re-opened in June and were unexpectedly busy. Admittedly, they’ve not been as full as they usually are, due to the social distancing measures in place, but they still hadn’t expected as many visitors as they get. Evidently, people still enjoy a night out at the casino. It’s an experience.

In the COVID-19 world, players can expect technology to keep progressing. While the online casinos continue striving to improve the quality of their games and experience, land-based casinos in Manchester will be doing everything they can to keep their customers safe. Technology will have a big part to play in this. The future may be a testing time for Lancashire’s casinos, but it doesn’t mean it’s all over for them. Not by a long shot.

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