After three months of lockdown restrictions on high street businesses, betting shops have reopened in England and Wales. As part of the measures to combat the spread of COVID-19, the Prime Minister rolled out a four-stage roadmap to ease the lockdown. Retail businesses, including betting shops, have been under lockdown since 5th January in England and as far back as 20th December in Wales.
The prime minister, Boris Johnson, said that data would guide his four-stage plan to ease the lockdown on critical sectors of the economy. These data must indicate a decline in the spread of coronavirus and measured based on the effectiveness of the vaccines. The plan which started on 8th march is expected to reach its completion by 21st June if all goes well.
Currently, the four-stage plan out of the lockdown is on its second milestone of reopening non-essential retailers under which betting shops were classified. Per the plan, the second milestone and reopening of betting shops in England and Wales started on 12th April. Bettors, bookmakers and their employees have looked forward to the date with excitement and hope to return some measure of normalcy in the gaming business. Finally, the betting shops have opened, however, with some safety restrictions.
Conditions for Reopening
However, the operation of betting shops is far from business as usual since the reopening in Wales. The reopening came with strict safety restrictions that betting shops must follow to ensure that gaming activities do not contribute to the spread of coronavirus. To ensure that customers uphold social distancing, the number of customers allowed within betting shops depends on the size of the shop.
Excluding employees, the maximum number of customers permitted within a shop is eight at one time. In addition to this, bettors must not visit a shop more than twice per day and must not spend more than fifteen minutes per visit. Betting shops in England and Wales have instructions to close their doors at 8 pm.
Also, gaming activities have taken a different turn as betting shops do not turn on more than two gaming machines. They do not show live sports on television. They have also taken away their chairs and tables to prevent the potential spread of coronavirus among visitors who would instead feel at home. Betting shops were also encouraged to provide hand sanitisers for customers and use protective screens between staff and visitors.
The Economic Implications of Reopening Betting Shops in Wales
Most stakeholders in the gambling industry are beginning to accept the unusual changes that the spread of the global pandemic brought. However, this acceptance does not make adapting to the new lifestyle any less strenuous. This challenge goes for both individuals and the government, who must now base every reality on the reality of coronavirus.
Gambling is prevalent in Wales, and leading the argument for the reopening of betting shops was the Betting and Gaming Council (BGC). According to the CEO, Michael Dugher, the industry accounts for about 46,000 jobs and almost contributed £1 billion to the national treasury in 2020 alone. Commenting on the reopening, he said, “It’s great news that high street betting shops in England and Wales are finally able to reopen safely, along with the rest of non-essential retail. It’s been a long three months for betting shop staff, as well as their customers, and I know they are all looking forward to safely getting back to business thanks to the best-in-class anti-Covid measures in place.”
The news of reopening was relieving to employees of betting shops who have been on unpaid leave since the lockdown. Also, this news comes as a great relief to owners of betting shops who’ve seen online operators taking over their customers since the start of the pandemic. The estimated number of bookmakers who resumed business on the 12th across the UK was 6,000.
However, with the strict safety restrictions in place, many gamblers cannot hide their disappointment in how the awaited reopening operates. With the current style of operation, it is not likely that betting shops will take back their place from the virtual gaming platforms soon.
Despite the reopening of betting shops and the apparent economic promises for England and Wales, casinos are still closed for the time being. If data continues to show a decline in the spread of the virus, the reopening of casinos could happen on 17th May as slated in the third milestone of the Prime Minister’s four-stage plan out of lockdown.