By Andrew Atkinson

Bookies in Spain are on a winner with gaming halls – including betting shops – bingo halls and casinos, remaining open in the latest coronavirus legislation imposed by the Government.

Restrictions imposed by the Ministry of Health on the hospitality sector includes closing at 5pm, in a bid to reduce the spread of coronavirus.

While bars and restaurants have to close, Gambling establishments can remain open until curfew time, set at 10pm. Many bookies serve alcohol, with bar closure of 5pm, mirroring bars and restaurants protocol.

The Platform against Gambling Alicante warned of risks of contagion in gaming establishments, due to being in confined spaces. However, the employers of the gaming sector affirm that, as is the case in general with leisure and hospitality, it is not proven.

The Gaming Business Council reports income losses estimated, up to 2020 at the national level, of approximately €4.3 billion, including shop custom and online; compared to €10,226 million in 2019, that has lead to a reduction in employees.

In the Alicante community in 2019 there were 20,093 slot machines in bars, reduced to 18,747, due to COVID-19, under the management of 467 operators, employing 670.

Many bars/restaurants have gaming/slot machines and terminals to place sports bets, including horseracing and football, amongst other sports, throughout Spain.

The General Directorate of Public Health and Addictions/Generalitat Valencia said health protocol for establishments that have machines, or any other gaming device for the purposes of this protocol, means gambling machines, slot machines, sports betting machines, etc.  Gaming machines being an element of common use, are therefore a potential transmitter of COVID-19, due to the use of different people throughout the same day.

And, sometimes due to the lack of distance between different machines, that prevents user the interpersonal distance, and given the need to move to access the machines and the possibility of removing the mask because it is being consumed, the recommendation is that they are not used while at Risk Level 3 and 4. At present the Valencian Community is in Level 4.

In the event that they are in operation, a series of preventive measures must be adopted for all establishments that have any type of gaming machine or device.

In addition to compliance with all those general hygiene measures provided for in current legislation, the following measures are established:

  1. The arrangement and use of the machines or any other gaming device must guarantee the maintenance of the minimum interpersonal distance of 1.5 metres. For this reason, it is necessary that, if there are several machines, they are distributed at a distance of more than 1.5 metres between them to guarantee interpersonal distancing at all times.
  2. Between one user and another, any type of machine or device through which gaming activities are offered, as well as chairs, tables or any other contact surface, must be cleaned and disinfected.
  3. Before using the machine or any other game element, it will be necessary to use hydroalcoholic gels or disinfectants by the user, which the bar or restaurant must make available at all times.

In addition, working people who interact with said clientele must use hydroalcoholic gels or disinfectants on a recurring basis during development.

The advice from the General Directorate of Public Health and Addictions/Generalitat Valencia was echoed in a statement from the local police department in Los Montesinos.

ORENES have gambling establishments across the Vega Baja including Los Montesinos Quesada, Campoamor and Cabo Roig, amongst other regional areas.

Following the announcement by President of the Generalitat Ximo Puig for the Valencian Community, betting shops and casinos came under the umbrella of new measures after a meeting on January 19 of the interdepartmental commission for the prevention and updating of Covid-19, with their closure in the Valencian Community for 14 days from January 21.

The decision came after the Torrevieja health department registered 894 cases of coronavirus, with the ten municipalities in the area doubling the number of coronovirus cases in comparison to the previous week.

The total number of infections registered since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020 is 5,510.

In Torrevieja 578 patients had been diagnosed with coronavirus in the last fortnight at the time of the new regulations announced on January 19.

San Miguel de Salinas recorded 1,823 cases per 100,000 inhabitants; Rojales 949 and Guardamar del Segura 892 cases.

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