Betting Shops Open in England and Wales

As part of the government’s roadmap out of lockdown, betting shops in England and Wales have been allowed to reopen. Bookmakers reopened on Monday April 12th, prepared for a busy week as punters returned after a long hiatus. Betting shops have been closed since lockdown restrictions came into place during the Christmas period.

A crowd of shoppers on a busy UK high street.

On April 12th, all shops in England and Wales reopened to the public. ©Free-Photos/Pixabay

Lockdown Rules Relaxed

As COVID-19 restrictions continue to be lifted across the UK, betting shops in England and Wales have welcomed customers through their doors for the first time since the beginning of the year. Betting shops in England have been closed since January 5th, while in Wales the lockdown was introduced earlier, on December 20th.

England has entered stage two of its lockdown roadmap, allowing up to six people to meet outdoors. All shops can now open, holidays in self-contained accommodation are allowed, and driving lessons can resume. Weddings and funerals are permitted and travel between England and Wales is no longer restricted.

In Wales restrictions have been eased similarly, although at a slower pace that in England. Pubs, cafes and restaurants will remain closed until April 26th. Gyms and exercise facilities also remain closed, a decision that was recently protested by 300 people in Cardiff.

The Prime Minister’s planned roadmap out of lockdown has gone to plan, as initially set out in February. Lockdown easing was dependent on the success of the vaccine program, reduced deaths and hospital admissions and no increased risk from new variants. More than 32 million people in the UK have received their first dose of vaccine, and 7.4 million people have been given both doses.

Covid-Safe Shops

Since Christmas, bettors have only been able to wager online. Now that bookmakers have reopened, sports fans are keen to return to the experience of being in a real bricks and mortar betting shop. However, it’s still not business as usual, as special safety restrictions must still be followed.

To ensure that social distancing is always possible, the number of customers allowed inside each betting shop is capped based on its size. The maximum number of customers allowed inside at one time is eight, and customer visits are limited to fifteen minutes. Customers can only visit betting shops twice in one day, and doors are closed at 8pm.

The set-up inside betting shops is also a little different to before the pandemic. Live sports cannot be shown on the televisions, tables and chairs have been removed and only two gaming machines can be turned on. While these restrictions may disappoint some customers, they have been put in place to minimize any potential spread of the virus between visitors.

As with other businesses open to the public, staff are protected with PPE and plastic screens. Customers are encouraged to use hand sanitizer on entering shops, keep masks on and to be vigilant in social distancing. CEO of the Betting and Gaming Council, Michael Dugher, has welcomed the news:

“It’s great news that high street betting shops in England and Wales are finally able to re-open 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.”

Economic Boost

Most betting shop staff have spent large periods of the pandemic on furlough, as they have been unable to work during the lockdowns. For these workers, the latest easing of restrictions is a step in the right direction. It was estimated that 6,000 UK bookmakers were able to relaunch on Monday.

According to Michael Dugher, the UK’s betting shops are responsible for supporting 46,000 jobs. In 2020, it was estimated that betting shops paid almost £1 billion to the Treasury in tax. Further to that, the horseracing industry contributes £350 million via sponsorship, media rights and the betting levy.

Horse racing and betting shops are thoroughly entwined as industries, each relying on the other to generate business. At the beginning of the pandemic, bookmakers struggled to offer customers with betting opportunities, as all UK racing fixtures were postponed. Racing has also struggled, as behind closed doors it cannot generate revenues from the fans who come to watch and bet on the races.

Racing fans missed a historic moment on April 10th, when Rachael Blackmore became the first female jockey to win the Grand National. While bettors are unable to return to racecourses just yet, the reopening of England and Wales’s betting shops will offer a boost to the UK’s economy.

Although betting shops in England and Wales have reopened, their counterparts in Scotland must remain closed until at least April 26th. In Northern Ireland, lockdown restrictions are to be reviewed on April 15th. Stay-at-home orders have just been lifted there, as have restrictions on outdoor retail.

Casinos will also have to wait a little longer to reopen, as they have been included as part of stage three of the government’s roadmap out of lockdown. This means that casinos in England could reopen on May 17th, with safety measures in place. For now, online casinos will have to suffice for those who enjoy playing slots, poker and roulette.

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A shop door sign that says OPEN.

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