Despite their counterparts in England being open for the best part of two weeks now, high street bookmakers in Ireland and Scotland have been kept closed due to shutdown restrictions.
However, firms north of the border and across the water have finally been given the go ahead to reopen as of next week.
The situation in Ireland has been particularly bizarre. More than 800 bookmakers’ shops had initially opened their doors on June 15, however all firms – including Irish favourites Paddy Power and Boyle Sports – were told to shut up again just 24 hours later.
The Gardai ordered the closure of all betting shops until further notice, having informed chiefs that it was ‘too soon’ for bookies to reopen their doors and that they didn’t fall under the statutory remit of ‘non essential’ shops.
It has also been reported that one betting shop in Dublin had failed to provide reasonable safety measures to protect the welfare of staff and punters, and that resulted in the whole industry being shut down until a re-think had been carried out.
And now bookies in Ireland will resume trading on Monday June 29, with a raft of new safety measures introduced.
Social distancing will be implemented through a clear queuing system, while the number of punters inside a shop will be limited – anyone else will have to wait outside like they would at a supermarket or garden centre.
All bet stations and terminals will be cleaned continuously, while hand sanitiser and cleaning stations have to be available in order for a shop to reopen. Staff must be provided with face masks, gloves and a protective screen on their till too, while punters are being warmly encouraged to pay for their bets using contactless payment options.
Scottish Bookies to Offer Limited Service from June 29th
Not to be outdone by their Celtic counterparts, Scottish betting shops will also open their doors for the first time in three months as of June 29 – albeit offering a limited service.
The government has given the green light to firms in Scotland to offer a ‘transactional service’, which means that they simply be there to accept bets and payout on winners.
Other services, such as live streaming and seating areas, will not be available to the public to discourage gatherings of punters within a confined space. The fixed odds betting terminals will also be switched off for the foreseeable future until further lifting of restrictions is made.
Kate Forbes, the Scottish Cabinet Secretary for Finance, has written to the Betting and Gaming Council explaining the safety measures. In her letter, she reiterated that ‘confirmation will be issued in due course as to when the rest of the adult gaming industry may reopen.’
It’s certainly a welcome start for bookmaking brands in Scotland, although revenue is likely to take a hit with punters not able to spend a prolonged amount of time on the shop floor and FOBTs shut down.
The measures are in direct contrast to the rules in place for English betting shop rules too, which are – by and large – open as normal save for some restrictions. GVC Holdings, who own Ladbrokes and Coral amongst other brands, said in a statement:
“We are disappointed that we’ve had no clear advice or guidance on re-opening our Scottish shops.
“This is inconsistent with our English estate, which is open for business and operating strict social-distancing measures to protect our colleagues and our customers. We will continue to seek clarification from the Scottish Government on this issue.”