Betting Shops to Reopen in Tier 3 Areas

The government has announced plans to open betting shops in England after the national lockdown comes to an end. Betting shops in tier three areas will be allowed to reopen, although casinos will have to stay shut. The Prime Minister also outlined plans to allow the return of spectators to live sports events.

A crowd of Liverpool football fans watching a game at a stadium.

The Prime Minister has also revealed plans to allow spectators to return to live sporting events in tiers one and two. ©Tembela Bohle/Pexels

Casinos to Stay Closed

Following the Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s most recent announcement, betting shops in England have learnt that they will be allowed to reopen in tier three areas once current lockdown measures are eased. The news comes as part of Johnson’s planned roadmap out of the national lockdown, which is due to be lifted on December 3rd.

The Betting and Gaming Council has welcomed the news that betting shops will be allowed to reopen in all three tiers with restrictions in place. England’s betting shops and casinos entered the current lockdown on November 5th. At the moment, betting shops are the only sector in non-essential high-street retail that must remain closed throughout England’s tier three areas. However, the BGC’s chief executive, Michael Dugher, has said that it will continue to fight for casinos to be granted the same treatment. As it currently stands, casinos in tier three areas will have to remain closed.

When England’s high-street bookies are allowed to reopen to the public in December, they will have to stick to a strict set of rules to ensure that they do not contribute to the spread of the virus. Such measures will include limiting the number of customers allowed on the premises, removing chairs and using Perspex screens. Visitors will also find that they won’t be allowed to stick around to watch live sports.

At this point, the UK’s betting shops are well versed in COVID-19 safety measures. Shops have had to adhere to such measures since they were allowed to reopen after first lockdown was eased in June. Social distancing, hand sanitizers and track and trace systems have all become standard in the fight against coronavirus in shops, workplaces and schools.

Speaking on behalf of the BGC, which represents the UK’s betting shops, casinos and online operators, Dugher explained that it is now possible to look forward to the end of the lockdown with the knowledge that betting shops will be able to play a part in helping the UK’s economy to recover. Dugher added:

“This is great news for our customers in communities across large parts of England and for the thousands of people employed in high street betting shops. I know how hard in particular the DCMS battled for their sectors and ministers deserve our sincere thanks. On top of the stringent anti-Covid measures betting shops already adhere to, our members have agreed to further restrictions to limit any chance of Covid being transmitted in their premises.”

Spectators Return to Live Sports

On top of the news that betting shops will reopen, there was also good news for fans of live sports. The government has announced that limited numbers of spectators will be allowed back into stadiums and venues to watch live sports in tiers one and two. In tier one areas, up to 4,000 people will be allowed to visit outdoor sports venues, whilst in tier two areas this number will be capped at 2,000 spectators. Fans will not be allowed to attend events in tier three areas.

The news has come as a massive relief to clubs and venues, which have struggled financially from the absence of ticket sales. Football clubs have had to rely more heavily on other revenues such as sponsorship. Horse racing, which often draws very large crowds for weekend meets, has also struggled since the virus spread at March’s Cheltenham Festival.

English Football League chairman, Rick Parry spoke to BBC Radio Four’s Today program about the impact that the return of fans will have on sports. Describing the news as a “welcome start” and “something to celebrate for fans”, Parry explained that the return would be a lifeline for small clubs. However, there will be a lot of hard work to come, as workers have been on furlough and the news has come as a surprise to many.

Casinos have not received such good news, unfortunately. Casinos in tier three areas will have to remain closed, despite utilizing an effective set of safety measures so far this year. The BGC has questioned the necessity of this decision, claiming that it will cause more harm than good to casinos and their staff. Remarking on the matter, Dugher said:

“Casinos are best-in-class amongst the hospitality sector when it comes to anti-Covid measures. There is no evidence that they contribute to the spread of the virus. So it remains extremely disappointing that they are still being ordered to close in Tier 3 areas. We do welcome the decision to extend the hospitality curfew by an hour to 11pm, but we will continue to make the case that casinos are uniquely exposed to any curfew and we will press for their full and safe reopening in all parts of the country.”

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