Simon Thomas exclusive: Cautiously pleased but puzzling why Europe opening faster than UK

Hippodrome Casino CEO Simon Thomas is "heartened" UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson is aiming to irreversibly ease the nation's lockdown restrictions.

Being cautiously pleased that casinos are now scheduled to open on 17 May, Thomas is disappointed this moment won't come sooner.

He does, however, believe a delay now to reduce the chance of another false start is a price worth paying.

Thomas exclusively told Gambling Insider: "I am cautiously pleased. Clearly, it is better to have a plan than not. Obviously, though, I'm disappointed that we won’t be opening sooner than 17 May. We've a lot of staff very eager to get back to work.

"But I’m heartened the Prime Minister has said this is meant to be an irreversible strategy with no future lockdowns. Uncertainty has proved very expensive, as have the false starts. So a slight delay now to give that promise some validity means we can plan for the future with confidence. 

"We’ve used the time very productively at the Hippodrome and moved our poker deck to a much larger area to meet the demand, a new casino floor in the Gods of the old theatre building and joined up areas for improved customer flow. So we’ve been busy while we wait and we’re confident the West End of London will thrive going forward, even though sadly we will have lost some neighbouring businesses who didn’t enter this with a healthy balance sheet."

Along with this positive note, however, Thomas expressed disappointment that leisure and entertainment venues in Europe are currently a way ahead of their UK counterparts.

The Hippodrome Casino CEO therefore calls for "strong direction" from the UK Government and leadership that will work together with UK businesses.

Thomas added: "It does puzzle me that it looks that Europe seems to be opening up faster than us. While it’s highly likely we’re going to be first past the post for a successful vaccination programme for the entire population, other countries have forged ahead and opened hospitality venues already; in France, schools and shops are open, in 20 regions of Italy bars and cafes have opened the doors, in Spain many cafes are open for breakfast and lunch already. 

"One thing is key. We need strong direction from Government now with a primary focus on the overall economic prosperity of the nation, and a leadership that will work with businesses to help rebuild the economy. The night time economy has suffered badly throughout the last year and theatres, bars, restaurants and casinos require continued support... after all, these are the venues that chiefly drive domestic and international visits."

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