Betting shops in England to close from Thursday in blow to racing
All 5,681 betting shops in England will close from Thursday under the new month-long national lockdown announced by prime minister Boris Johnson on Saturday night, representing a grievous blow for the betting and racing industries.
However, racing and other elite sports will be able to continue staging action behind closed doors, unlike in the original lockdown during the spring.
Betting shops closed on March 20 and reopened their doors from June 15 under a range of strict social distancing and protective measures, including limitations on customers.
Despite that, betting shops, as well as all other non-essential retail establishments, will close for a second time in a significant blow to the gambling industry and racing, with levy income and media rights set to be heavily affected by the mass closures.
The precise economic impact is uncertain as media rights information is not publicly available, but Britain's largest independent bookmaker Jenningsbet says each of its betting shops pays around £36,000 annually in media rights for horse and greyhound racing pictures, while retail turnover accounts for roughly one third of the money bet on racing.
As such, the cost of even a month-long shutdown of betting shops to racing is likely to run into eight figures.
A significant minority of English betting shops had already closed in areas under Tier 3 Covid-19 restrictions, while other high street businesses remained open under Covid-safe guidelines, earning the frustration of senior betting and racing industry figures.
Michael Dugher, chief executive of the Betting & Gaming Council, argued the move was "not remotely about science".
This week the Department for Health & Social Care outlined its reasoning that betting shop customers had an increased likelihood of remaining in an enclosed space for a prolonged period, raising the chances of them potentially contracting the virus.
With Johnson's announcement reflecting only what will happen in England, it is assumed the 772 shops in Scotland and 283 in Northern Ireland will remain open unless further action is taken by the devolved governments.
Bookmakers will want to understand what happens from December 2 and whether all non-essential retail will open again from that date, or whether they will fall foul of Tier 3 restrictions again beyond the initial lockdown period.
The anticipated shutdown period covers a busy period of racing, including Cheltenham’s three-day November meeting, Haydock’s Betfair Chase card and the Ladbrokes Trophy fixture at Newbury, while at least three rounds of Premier League fixtures are set to take place during the period high street bookmakers will be closed.
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