PHILIPSBURG--The opening hours of casinos were extended from 12:00 midnight to 2:00am first, ahead of other businesses in the nightlife industry, because it was easier to execute for casinos and because casinos are less risky in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic than establishments such as clubs, lounges and bars.
Prime Minister Silveria Jacobs provided the clarity in response to a question during the live virtual Council of Ministers press briefing on Wednesday.
Many persons questioned the decision to extend the opening hours of casinos, but not all businesses in the nightlife industry, when the announcement was made on Monday by Minister of Tourism, Economic Affairs, Transport and Telecommunication (TEATT) Ludmila de Weever. The change went into effect as of November 1.
When asked about the rationale behind the move, Jacobs said the regulation governing casinos is different from that of other businesses. While extending the opening hours of other businesses requires changes to the Ministerial Regulation, this is not the case for casinos.
“So, while it is the [TEATT– Ed.] Minister’s intention to [extend the opening hours of other businesses], it does require some more time, while the one for the casinos did not require any extra, let’s say, legal advice or documentation to be signed, etc.” Jacobs explained.
“Changes to the law will be coming and that will affect other businesses. The one for casinos was easier to change. That’s why it happened ahead of time and it is also less risky than, for instance – a club scene,” she explained.
While the TEATT Minister and her legal staff are working on the necessary changes, Jacobs said the other regulation still stands for other businesses.
She also said that there is less chance for people to be interacting and “in each other faces” in a casino when compared to a club, lounge or bar setting. When persons start consuming alcohol, they relax their inhibitions and they start hugging, kissing and dancing with each other, which are conducive to the spread of COVID-19. The populace was urged to use their better judgement while taking all the necessary precautions to be safe.
Minister of Public Health, Social Development and Labour VSA Richard Panneflek has spoken about obtaining rapid antigen tests which would allow authorities to test more persons. This will minimise the time persons must spend in quarantine, for instance. Residents’ behaviour is in their hands and Jacobs urged everyone to continue to adhere to measures to control the spread of the virus.
In the meantime, all businesses other than casinos are required to continue closing at midnight. Those that fail to adhere to this measure will have their licences revoked immediately.
De Weever had said in a press statement on Monday that the regulations set down in the Ministerial Decree restricting business hours are slowly being relaxed. She said she will gradually extend business hours of operation in the same phased approach as was done in August and September.
“The intention is to do so safely and to be able to reverse the decision should the trend change,” it was stated in the release. The ministerial decree regulating businesses to close at 12:00am, she said, overrides all licence conditions because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I cannot jeopardise our high season because of a premature opening, especially at a time when other parts of the world are shutting down for a second time. We cannot ignore the strong correlation between the regulations on businesses and certain activities with the lower number of active cases. The downward trend was undeniable after the regulations were put in place. Nonetheless, our people and our economy need a chance to be ready for the upcoming season,” De Weever said at the time.