Betting shops face uncertain future as they prepare for Monday reopening

Irish Bookmakers Association anticipate 50% loss in turnover

Betting shops in Ireland can reopen from Monday. Photograph:  Alan Crowhurst/Getty Images

Betting shops in Ireland can reopen from Monday. Photograph: Alan Crowhurst/Getty Images

 

The 800-plus betting shops in Ireland will be allowed reopen on Monday although an anticipated 50 per cent loss in turnover due to the impact of coronavirus is already prompting fears of closures.

The Irish Bookmakers Association (IBA), which represents 765 of the country’s 814 betting shops, including those owned by Paddy Power, Boylesports and Ladbrokes, confirmed on Friday that Government relaxation of Covid-19 restrictions allows its members to reopen.

It coincides with the resumption of racing behind closed doors in Ireland at Naas on Monday.

The move comes as betting shops have been included in the same phase as all other retail outlets in the Government’s accelerated reopening of business, announced on Friday.

The IBA said shops are expected to open gradually over the coming fortnight as necessary health safeguards are put in place. Technically however they are permitted to open on Monday if meeting all the safety criteria.

“Technically they could all open as long as they have all the necessary safeguards and signage and have a door onto a street.

“Under the guidelines retail outlets must have a door onto the street. Anyone with a premises in a shopping centre will, I believe, have to wait until the 15th,” said the IBA’s chairwoman, Sharon Byrne.

She added that all staff members will have completed specific Covid-19 training in advance of opening and that shops will be stocked with all necessary safeguards.

Betting shops have been closed in Ireland since March 16th.

“I know that our members have prepared themselves for at least a 50 per cent drop in turnover for the foreseeable future. If those estimates are correct there will be a lot of shops closing. They will be totally unviable,” Byrne said.

“They were on the knife-edge since the betting tax doubled. We had seen about 40 closures already. Now, with this, to be honest, I can’t see a lot of them surviving.

“Some of that 50 per cent forecast is about social distancing. But it’s also about customer confidence.

“Shops are a social outlet. In the afternoon a lot of customers would be of the older generation. They sit down, have a cup of tea and a chat for a few hours.

“There’s a chance a lot of those will be cocooning and there’s a fear, especially among smaller operators, about a lot of them staying away. Customers might have also migrated to online,” she added.

Prior to lockdown fears about the difficulty of maintaining social distancing in betting ships included anxiety about customers rushing counters to get bets on late.

“We will have messaging in newspapers and on screen for people to get bets on in time, and to get there a little earlier.

“There will be a queuing system in place if there’s more than a handful of people in it.

“We will be adhering to all the safety guidelines and protocols published by Government, even more so in our sector because we’re very different.

“No one else will have that rush to the counter. But we believe with the right messaging we can avoid that,” Byrne said.

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