The betting industry was dealt another blow by the Coronavirus on Friday when the UK government announced that all betting shops and casinos would be required to close with immediate effect.
The closure has initially been set for a period of two weeks, after which there will be a further review, although at this stage, the prospect of betting venues opening at the end of that period would seem to be small. The news came as the UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson introduced a widespread lockdown across the leisure and entertainment sector.
At the same time as the announcement on entertainment venues, the government announced that they were bringing in a number of measures designed to protect jobs during the pandemic. The government will make grants to employers to cover 80% of the wages of those who are employed, up to a maximum of £2,500 per month, a measure that may go some way to alleviating the difficulties for betting venues, particularly independent bookmakers.
But a number of betting operators had already taken action to close their venues in light of the need for social distancing. Having already closed its betting shops in Ireland, operator Paddy Power said that they would be shutting down all of their retail venues in the UK until the end of next month.
The parent company of Paddy Power, Flutter Entertainment, issued a statement saying that they were seeking to comply with the guidelines of the UK government, put out earlier in the week, in order to protect both customers and employees:
“There is nothing more important than the safety and wellbeing of our colleagues and the public during this pandemic. We have been following the situation very closely and believe this is in the best interest of our people and our customers, in order to keep them and their families safe during this time.”