England’s Land-Based Gambling Sector Braces as Country Returns to Lockdown

Posted on: November 2, 2020, 12:13h. 

Last updated on: November 2, 2020, 01:12h.

England will return to a state of national lockdown Thursday. Strict new measures to curb the spread of the coronavirus will see the closure of all non-essential retail outlets, pubs, restaurants, leisure facilities, and entertainment venues until at least December 2. That includes the country’s betting shops, casinos, and bingo parlors.

UK lockdown
UK PM Boris Johnson, seen here, said Saturday a lockdown was needed to avoid a “medical and moral disaster.” (Image: BBC)

The move comes as British Prime Minister Boris Johnson warned Saturday that there was “no alternative” if the country wished to avoid a “medical and moral disaster.” Failure to act would see “deaths in this country running at several thousand a day” within weeks, and the National Health Service would be overrun, he said.

Johnson apologized for inflicting the “painful” lockdown but insisted it was the only chance of having anything resembling a normal Christmas.

Critics of the government say the move has come too late, and the virus would be better contained had lockdown begun several weeks ago. Others say the move is unnecessary and point to the inefficiencies of the government’s test and trace program, a system that was supposed to keep the virus in check.

GVC Forecasts Profit Hit

On Monday, GVC said it expected the lockdown to lead to a £27 million ($34.7 million) hit to profits in England. Through its subsidiary Ladbrokes Coral, the company is the biggest land-based betting operator in England and the UK.

Factoring in current restrictions across Europe, GVC said total losses for the month could hit £37 million ($48 million). France, Germany, Italy, Belgium, and the Czech Republic are among the other countries in Europe to have imposed nationwide lockdowns in the past few weeks.

And should the other constituent countries of the UK, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland join the lockdown, the deficit could be as high as £43 million ($54 million), the operator said.

Nicola Sturgeon, First Minister of Scotland, where cases are less pronounced, said today she has not ruled out imposing a full lockdown next week. Meanwhile, Wales is coming to the end of its short “firebreak” lockdown, which will run until November 9. Northern Ireland closed non-essential businesses last month for four weeks. These restrictions are due to be eased on November 13.

GVC said its projections include government support schemes designed to ease the financial burden on businesses.

We are following government advice in each area of our operations and are enacting contingency plans to minimize the impact on the business,” the company said.

The government has announced it will extend its furlough scheme for a month, which will see employees receive 80 percent of their current salary for hours not worked.

See You in a Month

Betting & Gaming Council chief executive Michael Dugher welcomed this decision. But he had some words of advice for the government about how best to reboot the gaming industry in a month’s time.

“It’s also important that when the latest lockdown is over, betting shops are allowed to open safely along with other non-essential retail, as they were in June,” he said in a statement. “Casinos, which have the best anti-COVID-19 measures operating anywhere in hospitality and entertainment, should also reopen at the same time.

At a time when there is widespread despair among sporting bodies, the government also needs to recognize that a healthy betting industry is vital to the funding of sport, and that betting shops, in particular, are critical to the financing of horseracing,” he continued.