UK betting shops will be able to open their doors after almost three months, from 15 June.
The Government announced today (26 May) that a number of establishments, including fashion stores and car dealerships as well as bookies and arcades, will be able to reopen from that date, after all premises were shuttered to slow the spread of novel coronavirus (Covid-19). That date could be pushed back if infection rates rise, however.
The date is particularly important for bookmakers, coming a day ahead of the scheduled start of the Royal Ascot meeting on 16 June. It is thought the Premier League will also restart on 26 June, with an announcement expected this week.
Businesses will only be able to open once they have completed a risk assessment, in consultation with trade union representatives or workers, and are confident they are managing the risks, the Government said. They must have taken the necessary steps to become “Covid-19 secure”, in line with the current health and safety legislation.
Shops will be encouraged to clean their premises regularly, consider social distancing restrictions and place protective coverings on items touched by the public.
Stores that reopen but are found to breach rules will face fines, with management risking jail sentences of up to two years for any violations.
“With racing returning soon, we welcome the fact that betting shops across the country will be able to open their doors again on 15 June,” a Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) spokesperson told iGB. “Our members are working hard to prepare shops for reopening and to ensure a safe environment for customers with social distancing and hygiene measures in place.
“Bookies employ nearly 50,000 hard-working staff, who have all played their part in the national effort to combat the spread of Covid-19, and we now look forward to providing customers with the best possible experience as lockdown eases.”
Discussing the changes, Business Secretary Alok Sharma said: “The high street sits at the heart of every community in the country. Enabling these businesses to open will be a critical step on the road to rebuilding our economy, and will support millions of jobs across the UK.
“The guidance we have set out today provides a vital framework to get shops open in a way that is safe for everyone. It explains how retail workers who are not currently working can go back to work as safely as possible and feel confident in their workplace. And it reassures customers that shops are properly assessing the risks and putting in place measures to protect them.”
All UK stores not deemed to be “essential” – including casinos, betting shops and bingo clubs – were ordered to shut down on 20 March in response to the coronavirus outbreak.
Betting shops in Ireland are also set to open next month, with 29 June – two days after the Irish Derby – following discussions between the country's government and the Irish Bookmakers Association.
An earlier date had been discussed but both sides settled for a phase three opening, with phase two on the roadmap catering for retail outlets with street-level access once the number of people permitted per square metre – which has yet to be established – can be adhered to.
Irish racing plans to resume operations ‘behind closed doors’ at some centrally located racecourses on 8 June – coinciding with phase two of the government’s roadmap for recovery.
“The top priority for our members is the health of their colleagues and customers. Our members are working to ensure robust safety protocols and procedures are in place to adequately protect staff and customers,” said Sharon Byrne, chief executive of the IBA, in a statement.
“Over the next number of weeks, we expect the public will have adjusted to the phased reopening of retail outlets in general.”
Image: Pam Brophy