The UK Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Matthew Hancock, warned that non-essential businesses, sports betting shops included, may be forced to remain closed until a vaccine for Covid-19 becomes widely available to the public. Recent changes to the coronavirus measures during the holiday period will cause betting shops to cease operations across a significant part of the country.
Bookmakers located in the London area, as well as those in England’s south-east and east parts, will have to close their doors to customers again. This applies to areas of the country whose status was moved from the Tier 3 to the higher Tier 4 category. Such areas will be subjected to more restrictive measures on non-essential businesses over the Christmas period.
This is another severe blow for the bookmaking industry as retail betting shops are now forced to close doors again just weeks after they were allowed to reopen. The most recent lockdown in the UK took place between November 5th and December 2nd. The same restrictions are looming over bookmakers from Scotland and Northern Ireland, who will have to cease servicing punters from December 26 when level-4 measures come into effect.
Horse Races Continue without Spectators
It was confirmed by the British Horseracing Authority (BHA) that races will continue to take place in Tier-4 zones. However, spectators will be disallowed and the events will take place behind closed doors, with owners being subjected to the same restrictions as those during the November lockdown.
This is to say the maximum attendance per course should not exceed 45 people. Each individual horse racetrack will provide specific guidelines and information attendees must check in advance. Many racetracks in the Tier-4 zones have already transitioned to fixtures behind closed doors.
One example is the King George VI Chase which is among the most prestigious horse racing events in the country. The Jockey Club confirmed the two-day chase will not be open for public attendance. The Newbury and Sandown fixtures scheduled for December 29 and January 2 will also take place without spectators.
The November Lockdown Cost £12.5 Million to Local Betting Industry
The impact the measures will have on the local horse racing industry is yet to be determined. The closing down of retail betting shops across the country between November 5th and December 2nd is estimated to have cost approximately £12.5 million to the industry. According to the British Betting and Gaming Council, around 3,000 retail betting shops were forced to close their doors to customers as a result of the measures.
Furthermore, the British Health Secretary Matthew Hancock hinted that this situation may not change until a vaccine for the coronavirus becomes broadly available. This could take a “couple of months” according to the Health Secretary. Until then it would be quite difficult to maintain control over the spread of the virus, Mr. Hancock said.
Simon Clare, the PR Director of the British sports betting and gambling company Ladbrokes Coral, remains confident many punters will still have access to betting despite the restrictions. Mr. Clare stressed that a considerable percentage of the company’s patrons are multi-channel players. They will still be able to have their share of fun since there will be plenty of racing, football, and other live events during the holiday season.