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‘It’s a joke’ - Adult arcades furious at government U-turn over June 15 reopening

PUBLISHED: 14:48 19 June 2020 | UPDATED: 17:16 20 June 2020

Charles Thurston, owner of The Mint, says he is furious at the government's decision not to allow adult gaming centres to open alongside high-street bookmakers on June 15. Photo: Charles Thurston/ Google

Charles Thurston, owner of The Mint, says he is furious at the government's decision not to allow adult gaming centres to open alongside high-street bookmakers on June 15. Photo: Charles Thurston/ Google

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Adult amusement arcades which were due to reopen on June 15 have hit out at the Government for an “11th hour U-turn” which has left the industry hanging in the balance.

Great Yarmouth's Marine Parade by night. Photo: Gina UpexGreat Yarmouth's Marine Parade by night. Photo: Gina Upex

The government initially took the view that adult gaming centres (AGCs) were akin to high-street betting shops and could open June 15 under the banner of “non-essential retail” rather than leisure - a category which family amusement arcades, with their 2p slot machines and high customer turnover, more clearly falls under.

But at the “11th hour” on June 11, AGC operators were suddenly informed the government had changed its mind. The bookies, however, were allowed to go ahead and open.

Charles Thurston, who owns The Mint and Silver Slipper arcades in Great Yarmouth, said he was furious at the government’s backtrack.

He said: “This decision, communicated to us via email just days before we were due to re-open, has come as a massive shock.”

But in response, a spokesperson for the government said: “All decisions on reopening businesses are made taking into account the latest scientific advice.

Grat Yarmouth's seafront is desperate to open up, with Mr Thurston stressing that people Grat Yarmouth's seafront is desperate to open up, with Mr Thurston stressing that people "want to get back to work" at his arcades. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

“We are working directly with BACTA and other representatives from the leisure industry on finalising guidance that will help arcades reopen when it is safe to do so.”

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They added that arcades would be considered as part of the next phase of re-openings in July.

But Mr Thurston said the decision was “completely irrational” and felt like “a kick in the teeth”.

Merkur Cashino in Lowestoft, part of a Milton-Keynes owned branch, said they were Merkur Cashino in Lowestoft, part of a Milton-Keynes owned branch, said they were "disappointed" in the government's U-turn given that stringent safety measures had already been put in place. Photo: Google

Likewise, for the Merkur Cashino in Lowestoft, things were “completely ready to go” before the news came in last Thursday.

Mark Schertle, chief operating officer for the company, said: “Our entire team is disappointed by this decision.

“It is understood the government believes ‘arcades’ would not be able to comply with guidelines for retail because the customers require ‘dwell time’ to partake in the activity.

“I don’t understand how they can make a decision like this at the 11th hour when all of our preparations were nearly complete.”

An inside look at what a socially distanced, covid-proof Cashino would have looked like, before the government decided re-opening was An inside look at what a socially distanced, covid-proof Cashino would have looked like, before the government decided re-opening was "too risky". Photo: Tony Slater

Safety measures included every second machine blocked off, PPE provision, limited customer numbers and a wipe-down of each machine between use.


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