Betting Shops Are ‘High Risk’ for COVID-19, Says UK Government

Posted on: October 30, 2020, 11:29h. 

Last updated on: October 30, 2020, 01:50h.

Britain’s betting shops are coronavirus risks because they are small enclosed spaces where customers linger for significant periods of time. That’s the view of the UK government’s Department for Health & Social Care. The department was responding to industry complaints about shop closures in regions where cases of the virus are high.

Betting shops
Betting shops are traditionally small spaces with one entry point where customers like to spend time researching bets and watching live sports. (Image: Scottish Business Insider)

Currently, some 1,250 betting shops in England and a further 366 in Wales are shuttered. All of Scotland’s remain open – for now.

Like most of Europe, Britain is facing a resurgent second wave of the virus. England is currently practicing a system of local lockdowns, with the most severe restrictions imposed on high-alert “Tier 3” regions, largely in the north of England.

Wales has opted for a two-and-a-half week “circuit breaker” national lockdown.

‘Not About the Science’

All betting outlets are closed within Tier 3 areas. This was largely under the orders of local officials, despite their closure not being official central government recommendations. It’s a move that has angered the industry, particularly because other non-essential retail is permitted to remain open — even gyms, in some cases.

“Betting shops reopened safely back in June under non-essential retail. Gyms were not,” tweeted Michael Dugher, chief executive of the Betting and Gaming Council, referring to the UK’s emergence from lockdown after the first wave.

“I also know that Public Health England were concerned about reopening gyms compared with casinos. Let’s not anyone — Mayors or Govt — pretend that Tier 3 closures are remotely about the science,” he added.

“Our regional approach is designed to reduce transmission whilst minimizing the wider impact on the economy,” a government spokesperson said. “The closure of betting shops in some areas has been jointly agreed with local leaders, as we know the virus thrives in enclosed spaces where people can remain for a sustained period.”

The UK’s “High Street” betting shops are traditionally small, unassuming, single-lot spaces that generally don’t have multiple entry points, making ventilation and the creation of one-way systems for customers challenging. They are also places where customers like to spend time researching bets or watching live sports.

More Betting Shops to Close

Last week, William Hill said that around 140 of its 1,414 shops were closed. That figure is now higher, as more regions have been declared Tier 3. The company said it expected to lose around £2 million per 100 closed outlets.

Research published Thursday by Imperial College London and Ipsos MORI suggested the rate of infections was doubling every nine days in the UK, based on data collected from 85,000 volunteers between October 16-25.

As of Friday, the country was recording a seven-day average of 22,678 new cases per day.