Scotland Resumes Racing, Bookies to Follow

As lockdown measures are gradually being eased across the UK, Scotland has allowed racing to resume behind closed doors. It’s good news for Scotland’s betting shops too, which will be allowed to reopen at the end of the month. However, strict guidelines will be in place to prevent the spread of coronavirus amongst customers.

Jockeys racing horses around a track.

Scotland has resumed racing, but when betting shops do reopen, customers will not be able to watch races live. ©Sheri Hooley/Unsplash

Horse Racing Begins

Since June 22nd, Scottish racing has been allowed to restart as the country moves into the second phase of its roadmap out of the coronavirus lockdown. Alongside other professional sports, racing has been allowed to resume with strict health and safety measures in place.

An announcement from Scottish Racing and the British Horseracing Authority clarified what would and wouldn’t be allowed in racing. Social distancing is necessary when possible, as well as medical screening processes and a range of hygiene measures.

Together, racing authorities have put together a comprehensive set of rules, which aim to minimize any further spread of COVID-19. As has already been seen across other professional sports that have already begun, spectators will not be allowed to attend events.

In Scotland, horseracing is the nation’s second most attended sport. It generates 3,400 full-time jobs as well as more than £300 million for the country’s economy every year. As such, Scotland will be eager to see races get back to normal as soon as possible. However, with concerns that the R rate could spike if the lockdown measures are eased too quickly, it is unlikely that races will resemble those of pre-lockdown days any time this year.

Joe Fitzpatrick MSP, Minister for Public Health, Sport and Wellbeing, said that it was good news for racing fans up and down the country. The return of racing and professional sports marks a step in the right direction, and has been possible thanks to the efforts of the Scottish government and Scottish Racing.

“We are delighted to welcome the return of racing in Scotland after a long, but necessary, absence as Scotland faced the challenges of Covid-19. This has been an immensely challenging time for our five excellent racecourses, but this is an important first step on the road to recovery, and we will be working hard to ensure all our participants are familiar with, and adhere to Scottish rules and guidance where these differ from UK guidance.”Delly Innes, Manager, Scottish Racing, speaking to the BHA

Chief executive of the BHA, Nick Rust, also welcomed the return of racing in Scotland. He praised the racing industry for being the first major sport to resume in Scotland, and went on to thank the Scottish government for its support in making racing possible again.

Betting Shops to Reopen

It’s not only racing that is returning in Scotland. Betting shops have also been given a date to reopen with limited service. Scottish bookies can open to the public from June 29th, although punters should expect some significant changes.

Betting shops will not be allowed to show live races and seating inside shops will also be banned. This is to try and reduce the number of people gathering inside them. Instead, betting shops will now serve as places for punters to come and place their bets, and then shortly move on.

Kate Forbes has clarified the situation to the Betting and Gaming Council, which represents the UK’s betting shops, casinos and online gambling sites. Forbes, who is the Scottish Cabinet Secretary for Finance, said that all fixed odds betting terminals would remain turned off. This will help to minimize spread of the virus through touching surfaces.

Leading UK operator GVC has said that it is disappointed in the lack of clarity offered by the Scottish government on reopening its betting shops. It called for clearer guidance and more consistency with English betting shops. These have been allowed to open to the public since June 15th, as long as social distancing and rigorous hygiene procedures are firmly in place.

The situation in Ireland has been confusing for betting shops, although it is now confirmed that they must remain closed until June 29th. There was uncertainty amongst many business owners as to what is counted as non-essential retail by the government.

On June 15th, it is estimated that 800 Irish betting shops opened, thinking that they were permitted to do so as part of the government’s ‘phase two’ roadmap. Causing much anger and upset, owners were told to shut their betting shops again, as it was made clear that they were not part of the arrangement to reopen non-essential businesses.

In Wales there is still uncertainty as to when betting shops will reopen. Non-essential retail has been allowed to reopen, but adult gaming centres and betting shops have not been included within that plan. It is rumored that, following an update due to take place on July 9th, betting shops could get the chance to open their doors in Wales around July 13th.

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