Pandemic has taken its toll

Live poker has already taken a series of blows to the midsection during the COVID-19 pandemic, but even when more casinos open and poker begins its comeback, it will not fully recover. Genting Casinos has decided to discontinue its live poker operations in the United Kingdom. This is not a minor loss – Genting has 42 casinos in the UK, many of which have poker rooms.

Genting has not made an official announcement, but rumors were swirling on Monday, with some employees of their card rooms tweeting that it was over. On Tuesday, PokerNews.com published a story to confirm the rumors, saying that it had been contacted by a staff member of a Genting poker room who let them know it was true.

The person, who did not want to be named, said that the employees of the Birmingham location were told, “Genting will cease all live poker in their casinos.”

That same person also said that Genting Resorts World Casino in Birmingham is facing 98 job losses and the rest of the Genting properties in the UK will be letting go from 20 to 50 employees each.

PokerNews also found the Facebook page of the poker room manager at a different location, who wrote:

Well, it’s been emotional. Thank you to all our poker players, hope you have a great experience. Thoughts to all my colleagues (family) that didn’t deserve this (although in current climate it was kind of expected) you are all superstars and proud to have had you in our team. Onwards and Upwards. PS anyone hiring?

Multiple sources saying the same thing certainly makes it sound like the rumors were true.

Casinos at risk of closure

All casinos in England are still closed until July 4, though betting shops were permitted to reopen on Monday. Genting recently announced that it might close its UK properties in Torquay, Bristol, and Margate, so clearly the company is struggling during the pandemic, as all gaming firms are.

GMB, the leisure and hospitality union that represents casino employees warned that this could be “just the start.”

In a letter to staff, Genting UK president and COO Paul Willcock admitted that closures and layoffs are on the table. Stating the obvious, he said that the pandemic has created “unprecedented challenges” for the gambling industry.

He added that the lockdowns have had a “huge financial impact on our business and significant uncertainty for the foreseeable future. I am therefore forced to contemplate some very difficult options to ensure survival.”

In the UK, Genting poker rooms were known as high quality, friendly places for locals to play poker. You weren’t about to find a World Poker Tour stop at any of them, but they did serve as hosts for the Genting Poker Series (GPS) for nearly a decade. The short, inexpensive tour events topped out at £440 buy-ins. The last GPS tournament to run was at Genting Club Stoke in Stoke on Trent. Teodor Celichkov won the £80 tournament on February 26.

There are GPS events scheduled out to November, but it sounds like they won’t happen.

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