Betting Shops Reopen in England in Time for Wednesday EPL Restart

Posted on: June 15, 2020, 01:36h. 

Last updated on: June 15, 2020, 02:49h.

England’s betting shops opened their doors on Monday, more than 12 weeks after they were ordered to shutter as part of a national effort to contain the coronavirus.

betting shops
Betting shops like this branch of Coral opened with social distancing controls and complimentary hand sanitizer Monday. (Image: Press Association)

The resumption of retail betting is part of a wider emergence from lockdown for the country and its economy, as all non-essential stores were permitted to open Monday, providing social distancing measures were in place.

Happily, for bookmakers — and gamblers — betting outlets are back in action just three days before the English Premier League (EPL) is scheduled to restart, while the famous Royal Ascot horse racing festival begins Tuesday and runs all week.

All sporting events taking place anywhere in the UK will be played or run behind closed doors for the foreseeable future.

Under normal circumstances Royal Ascot generates revenues of £150 million ($188 million) for the betting industry, while the EPL is the most bet-upon sports league in the world.

The racing industry will also benefit from the resumption of bet-to-view media rights, for which the average betting shop pays around £30,000 ($38,000) per year.

Sneeze Screens and Hand Sanitizer

The wholesale cancellation of sports worldwide hit the industry hard. In March big hitters like William Hill warned investors to expect the damage to profits to be in the low nine figures.

On Monday, William Hill UK Operations Director Steven White told his company had seen an “encouraging” first day’s trading at the 734 outlets that opened today.

While Hill has chosen to reopen its 1,538 properties in phases, rival Ladbrokes Coral’s 2,445 outlets were all back in business Monday — more than was initially expected, according to The Racing Post.

Safety measures include a one-in-one-out system, “sneeze screens” at counters, complimentary hand sanitizer, and disposable touchscreen pens to prevent customers from using their fingers on electronic betting screens.

“We are seeing plenty of our regular customers returning, and they are playing their part too, showing patience queuing for the counter to put their bets on, adhering to the social distancing measures and, when necessary, queueing outside the shop,” Simon Clare, PR director for Ladbrokes Coral, told Racing TV.

Rest of UK Must Wait

Meanwhile, bettors in rest of the UK — Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland — will have to wait a little longer, as authorities there are adopting a more cautious approach. There may be a similar easing of restrictions on non-essential businesses in Scotland and Wales toward the end of this month.

But while many non-essential stores have already reopened in Northern Ireland, betting outlets are on a list of businesses that must remain closed in the province.

On Monday, the NI Turf Guardians’ Association, which represents the interests of bookmakers in Northern Ireland, demanded “urgent confirmation” from the province’s executive in Stormont about when outlets can reopen.

As of last week, betting shops are also open and trading in the Republic of Ireland, which is not part of the UK.