UK betting shops have been cleared to reopen on June 15 if they can implement the government’s COVID-19 prevention guidelines.
On Tuesday, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson unveiled the latest stage in the government’s post-pandemic economic recovery strategy. Among the ‘non-essential’ retail operations cleared to open on June 15 are the nation’s thousands of betting shops and arcades, which were ordered to shut their doors on March 20 to minimize further COVID-19 transmission.
The reopening date is still three weeks away, and the permission could be rescinded should the UK’s COVID-19 infection rates spike. The government has also warned that shops that fail to adhere to the required social distancing, limited capacity and disinfection protocols will result in their operators facing financial penalties and possible jail time for management.
It remains to be seen how many shops will be able to reopen with the necessary protocols in place, and whether there will be enough customers to justify the shops remaining open. It’s widely suspected that the retail sector, which had already undergone sharp contraction over the past year, will suffer additional culling as skittish punters transfer their action online.
For the moment, the news will be welcomed by UK bookmakers with a large retail presence, including Betfred, Flutter Entertainment (Paddy Power), GVC Holdings (Ladbrokes, Coral) and William Hill, all of which have been burning through cash at an alarming rate despite the government’s business rates relief and staff salary top-ups.
The UK’s reopening signal doesn’t apply to shops in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland, whose local governments are implementing their own economic restart strategies.
This past weekend, the Republic of Ireland’s retail bookmakers announced plans to reopen 755 betting shops on June 29. Like their UK counterparts, the Irish shops will be subject to capacity limits and other precautionary measures.
The UK betting shop’s proposed timeline means they’ll be able to take wagers on Royal Ascot 2020, which is scheduled to get underway on a ‘behind closed doors’ (no spectators) basis on June 16.
UK racing is scheduled to resume on June 1 and the British Horseracing Authority (BHA) has already released its schedule for the first eight days of activity. On Monday, the BHA released a provisional race program covering the rest of June. As with the betting shops, fixtures in Scotland and Wales will be subject to local approvals.