Slow start feared as Scottish betting shops reopen without screens or machines
Betting shops in Scotland are to reopen on Monday but without live screens or betting machines, leaving some leading bookmakers fearing sparse interest from their customers.
The Scottish government has enforced stricter measures than when shops reopened in England, and later Wales, earlier this month. Under the new rules, shops will not be permitted to broadcast live racing to stop customers gathering in the shops, while machines such as FOBTs and touchscreen terminals are not to be used.
There are 900 betting shops in Scotland and on Monday all of Paddy Power, Coral and Ladbrokes' outlets are to open with measures in place. William Hill will have a phased opening, similar to how shops were opened in England.
The 30 branches of Scotbet, the country's largest independent bookmaker, will be open but as part of a trial period to monitor how busy they are.
A statement from GVC Holdings, owners of Coral and Ladbrokes, read: "We're disappointed that the Scottish government has decided to deny thousands of Scottish customers the ability to sit down on a chair or watch the race they have bet on.
"We'll continue trying to educate Scottish Ministers that our shops offer a safe, secure and socially distanced place to bet – a service we are successfully delivering for our English and Welsh customers across the border."
William Hill also expressed disappointment about the government's measures. Steven White, Hills' UK operations director for retail, said: "We'll begin a phased reopening with our Scottish estate on Monday, and like the Scottish government, our colleagues and customers' health and wellbeing remains of paramount importance to us.
"We've already introduced a wide range of measures and protections to ensure all of our shops in the UK are a safe environment for everyone walking through our doors.
"We were disappointed that the Scottish government did not consult or engage with our industry before bringing in these very restrictive regulations and would welcome an open dialogue with the administration about their roadmap for lifting restrictions on betting shops in Scotland."
On Sunday no new cases of Covid-19 were confirmed in Scotland for the third day running.
Scotbet are reopening all their shops but with major concern about a lack of interest with punters.
John Heaton, the chairman of Scotbet, confirmed on Sunday that the first week could be used as a trial run to see how busy shops are. He forecasts business to be in short supply with punters not allowed access to machines and screens not in use.
Heaton said: "We're not allowed machines or TVs so I'm not too happy – it's hugely important to our customers. A lot of punters won't bet at all if they can't watch what they have bet on.
"The idea [from the government] that people would be congregating in our shops and breaching regulations is complete nonsense. It doesn't happen like that. I'm convinced they've never been in a betting shop.
"We're opening all shops but we'll have to see what trading is like –there's a cost to opening and if there are no customers then we'll have to see. I'll probably trial it for a week and see how it goes."
Shops in Northern Ireland will be open on July 3.
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