Bookmakers Open in England as Coronavirus Lockdown Eases
Punters in England can now visit bookmakers as the relaxation of lockdown enables non-essential shops to reopen. All Coral, Ladbrokes, Betfred and Paddy Power open for business alongside the majority of William Hill shops.
Thousands of betting shops opened for business yesterday, enabling customers to bet in person for the first time since March 20. Bookmakers have introduced strict social limitations and a raft of protective measures designed to protect both staff and customers.
The timing of the easing of the restrictions will be a boost to the industry. Bookmakers have suffered from the almost total curtailment of global sport. This week sees racing at Royal Ascot and the return of Premier League football.
Bookmakers have been forced to limit the number of customers to adhere with government guidelines with some operating a “one out, one in” policy to prevent crowding. Other measures brought in include the installation of transparent plastic sneeze guards to avoid contact between staff and customers.
Customers at Ladbrokes and Coral will be given special touchscreen pens to prevent customers using fingers on the terminals; the customers can take the pens with them to use on their next visit. Visitors can use all normal ways of paying for their bets but are encouraged to use contactless payments if possible.
Customers are also supplied with hand sanitiser and will be encouraged to use them when entering the shop, after touching machines and before leaving. Ladbrokes and Coral opened all their 2,445 shops, a much higher number than was initially anticipated.
Ladbrokes Coral PR director, Simon Clare, revealed that the company had originally planned to open a proportion of their shops in England but said staff had worked so well that they could open all shops, which Clare described as ‘great’. Speaking about the timing of the reopening, Clare said:
It’s really good as we’ve got Royal Ascot and Premier League football back this week. We’ve had so many people asking about when the shops are open since the racing’s been back – a lot of people have transferred online, but there’s still a significant amount who haven’t and don’t plan to. It’s important that we can serve those customers now.– Simon Clare, Ladbrokes Coral PR director
While Coral, Ladbrokes, Betfred and Paddy Power have opened all their retail shops in England, William Hill is taking a more cautious and staggered approach with 734 open yesterday out of the 1,538 they have in the UK.
As well as the major bookmakers opening, independent operators in England also opened their doors to customers.
Chisholm Bookmakers, one of the largest independent bookmakers, has opened 34 of their 36 branches. The chain, which is prominent in the north-east of England, expect 70% of regular customer to return in the first week of opening. Managing director Howard Chisholm stated he was confident that numbers would return to pre-lockdown levels by the end of the year. Adding, “there’s a lot of unknowns, but I know there’s been plenty of knocks on the doors and people want to come back”.
Chisholm added that the vast majority of its shops are open but confirmed that the opening hours had been reduced, closing now at 8 pm rather than the usual 9 pm to prevent staff burnout.