Bookies open on St Stephen’s Day but trade still expected to be hit

IBA survey earlier this year found turnover in betting shops down by over 50 per cent

Ireland’s betting shops are open for business on St Stephen’s Day but trade on the busy Christmas action is still expected to be hit.

Unlike in the last Level 5 lockdown in October, over 800 betting shops in the country are among retail outlets that will be allowed open when new restrictions come into force on Christmas Eve.

A spokesperson for the Irish Bookmakers Association has described it as "certainly a help" but doesn't expect to see a major boost in business.

"It allows staff work and get a wage by serving their customers which is great. It's certainly a help [for the sector] but I'm not sure it's a major plus," said the IBA's Sharon Byrne on Wednesday.


“The number of customers going into the shops is very low. Customer confidence is certainly not back. With the pubs closed it will be a very different experience this Christmas. People are just coming in, having their bet and not hanging around,” she added.

An IBA survey earlier this year found that turnover in betting shops has fallen by over 50 per cent due to the coronavirus pandemic this year.

“Footfall is way down. All our members are saying their shops are very quiet,” Byrne said. “The two weeks before Christmas are usually quiet anyway but it’s been a lot quieter than normal.”

IBA members have been advised to be extra vigilant when it comes to social distancing protocols over the coming weeks.

The atmosphere underlines how perhaps the most topically-named runner this Christmas is in the final race at Limerick on St Stephen’s Day.

The Paul Nolan-trained Socially Distant is declared to line up in the bumper at Limerick. It will be a third career start for the five year who finished runner up on her debut at Fairyhouse last month.

Brian O'Connor

Brian O'Connor

Brian O'Connor is the racing correspondent of The Irish Times. He also writes the Tipping Point column