Amusement arcades no longer permitted to re-open on 15 June 2020

It has been reported today (12 June 2020) that the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (‘DCMS’) informed the UK amusement machine industry trade body (Bacta) last night that amusement arcades are no longer on the list of non-essential high street premises able to reopen on Monday of next week, 15 June 2020.

This runs counter to the Government announcement on 26 May 2020 (reported by us here) that that arcades (together with betting shops and other “non-essential” retail outlets) could expect to be able to reopen from 15 June 2020 if the Government’s “five tests”  to ease the current coronavirus lockdown were met and the operators of such businesses followed the COVID-19 secure guidelines.

Today’s Bacta press release (entitled “Bacta Makes Rallying Call to Overturn AGC Reopening Decision”) states as follows:

In a shock move, the DCMS informed Bacta last night that AGCs are no longer on the list of non-essential high street premises which will be able to reopen on June 15

And in a cruel twist of irony, Betting Offices, listed alongside arcades for Monday’s opening, have been given the green light.

“I cannot see how two very similar High Street venues can be treated differently. There’s no logic to it and the consequences are nothing short of catastrophic to the AGC sector,” said bacta CEO John White. “Bacta is calling for every member to act immediately by phoning and emailing any political contact that they have whether MP or local councillor, to tell the Prime Minister that he has made a serious mistake and he must reverse this outrageous decision,” he added.

AGC operators have made significant investments to prepare for Monday’s reopening and this news will be a huge financial cost to them. Staff have been taken off furlough in readiness and machines have been refloated. Comprehensive social distancing and public hygiene measures have been developed and rolled out in accordance with Government and Sector guidance in all AGCs.

Bacta is calling for the Government to use Gambling Act definitions to make the distinction between AGCs and FECs as the term ‘amusement arcades’ used in Schedule 2 of the Coronovirus Act is imprecise. “If they delete the Term and insert FECs, so they remain closed and AGCs can then open,” adds John White.