Closure of Irish betting shops causing devastation and frustration

Confusion has reigned this week after shops reopened only to be told to close a day later

Betting shops in Ireland remain closed. Photograph: Matt Alexander/PA

Betting shops in Ireland remain closed. Photograph: Matt Alexander/PA

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Ireland’s betting shops sector has said it will be a devastating blow if it is not allowed to reopen later this month.

Confusion has reigned this week after most shops opened their doors again on Monday only for the government to tell them to close again a day later due to a public health statutory instrument, which listed licensed betting shops among premises not yet allowed to operate.

That’s despite shops having got a green light to open as early as June 8th under phase two of the national recovery plan due to coronavirus.

Although most premises closed voluntarily some smaller operators did remain open and had to be closed down by the Gardai. There have also been reports of a small number of others in the country still trading.

The Irish Bookmakers Association represents 765 of the country’s 814 betting shops. It has urged that all shops be closed - pointing out it is illegal to open until government changes the legislation - but concedes it cannot force them to.

The IBA is now hoping for government information on Friday about what outlets will be allowed resume business under the upcoming phase three of the national recovery plan.

Fears have been expressed within the sector that a June 29th resumption could be the best it can hope for.

Sharon Byrne, chairwoman of the IBA, has said the current situation has caused “devastation” for the up 5,000 people employed in betting shops and “sheer frustration” for customers.

“There are 5,000 colleagues sitting at home with a job that they could go to but can’t. Everybody made huge efforts, staff especially, to get ready to come back on the eighth and the 15th.

“It’s a very safe environment that offers distancing and protections and customer screens and can be managed. But unfortunately until the government changes things they can’t go back to work ,” she said on Thursday.

“You would imagine if pubs or restaurants can open, where people sit together, and there’s alcohol, you’d imagine a betting shop, where none of that takes place, could open as well.

“It would be very difficult to see retail open and betting shops closed when we can absolutely provide social distancing, not encourage people to stay, just have their bets and leave. That would be a devastating blow,” Byrne added.

She said securing information about government plans for betting shops has proved difficult bar being told officials will be guided by health advice.

“The figures for Covid are still going the way they want them to so you have to be hopeful that the government, and the National Public Health Emergency Team, would have a bit more scope to open up various sectors a little more,” Byrne said.

RTÉ’s one hour magazine type programmes that will run every Friday, Saturday and Sunday evening until the middle of next month includes action from Gowran Park.

The programme runs from 7pm to 8pm and will include the featured McCalmont Stakes at 7.15pm.

An very unsettled weather outlook could mean a dramatic change in ground conditions although soft going should be no problem for the highest rated filly in the race, Lemista.

She coped with very testing conditions to win the Park Express Stakes on the first day of the turf flat season at Naas in March. That proven ability can give her an edge over the regally bred Elfin Queen.

The Ger Lyons-Colin Keane team will also fancy their chances with Roca Roma in the opening maiden.

She was taken out of Saturday’s Irish 1,000 Guineas due to fast going. That won’t be an issue this time and neither may be her very wide draw.

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