Lockdown Exit Roadmap Gives Betting Industry Hope
The Government has published a four-step roadmap to easing lockdown restrictions across England. If certain conditions are met, non-essential retail, such as betting shops, could re-open on April 12. Spectators could also return in step three of the proposals no sooner than May 17.
The UK Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, has outlined plans for the gradual easing of lockdown in England. Announcing the roadmap this week, the PM said a cautious approach would be taken, and the decision on moving from one step to the next will be based on scientific data, not dates.
Under step 1, schools will re-open on March 8, and three weeks later, on March 29, outdoor sports facilities, such as football pitches, tennis and basketball courts, will be allowed to re-open. People can take part in organised sports that take place outdoors.
From March 29, the stay-at-home order will formally end, although many restrictions will still be in place. Step 2, which will come into effect no earlier than April 12, will be a key stage for the gambling industry as it will enable non-essential retail to re-open. This move will allow bookmakers to welcome customers for the first time since a third national lockdown was introduced in the first week of the new year.
It is understood that the British Horseracing Authority and the Jockey Club are wanting to delay the Grand National, originally scheduled for April 10, for two days to enable betting shops to take advantage. The Grand National is extremely popular with even casual bettors and a vital source of revenue, in 2019, an estimated £300m was bet on this one race alone.
Step 3, which will be introduced no earlier than May 17, will allow spectators to attend sporting events. Four thousand people (or 50% capacity if lower) will be permitted to attend. For large outdoor seated venues (which could include horseracing venues), 10,000 people are permitted, or 25% capacity, whichever is lower. Step 4, no sooner than June 21, will see all social contact limits removed and full re-opening of nightclubs and other entertainment venues. As many racecourses host functions such as weddings, this date will hopefully see a return to normality.
The British Horseracing Authority (BHA) state they welcomed the government’s decision and would work with its members and other stakeholders to enable spectators to return to meetings. In s statement, the BHA said: “On behalf of British racing and all those who work in our industry, we very much welcome the government’s announcement of a roadmap for the removal of the current Covid restrictions. “We have further discussions with officials scheduled, which will enable us to draw up specific proposals for race meetings, including potential pilot events.
“Whilst the publication of dates is a very positive sign, the absence of spectators from our big events is continuing to put a strain on racing’s revenues. This has been exacerbated by the closure of betting shops. Our financial discussions with the government are ongoing,”
Last week, the Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) called on the government to introduce a “level playing field” regarding opening up retail and entertainment venues.
The BGC stated that its members, who employ 44,000 people in betting shops and casinos, were ready to support the economic recovery and asked the government to treat the gambling industry in the same way as other non-essential retailers. Pointing to the fact that in previous lockdowns, betting shops and casinos were closed, but pubs were still able to trade.
The trade body highlighted that the Betting and Gaming industry paid £3.2 billion in taxes to the UK Exchequer in 2019-20.