The UK government’s new three-tiered system for tackling the coronavirus pandemic could mean that betting shops up and down the land will once again be forced to close their doors to the public.
All towns and cities are now graded either medium, high or very high relating to the number of Covid-19 cases that have been reported per 1,000 people in the area.
For now, those in tier 1 (medium) will be allowed to carry on under the national restrictions that have been in place for a number of weeks, however those in tiers 2 (high) and 3 (very high) will be subject to tougher measures to get the spiralling caseload under control.
Under the new guidelines, it is believed that any area that falls into the tier 3 band – currently Liverpool and its surrounding boroughs is the only region this applies to – will have the authority to force their betting shops to close.
The concern of many is that this will lead to significant job losses in the industry, with Boris Johnson hinting that a region placed into tier 3 will remain there for a period of at least four weeks.
There will be considerable ramifications for horse racing too, which will suffer from a diminished levy fund and the lack of revenue that comes from the media broadcasting rights sold to bookies’ shops.
The problem will only worsen in tier 2 areas are later promoted to tier 3 status; currently, this group includes highly populous cities such as Sheffield, Nottingham, Birmingham and Newcastle, all of which have a considerable number of betting shops on their high streets.
At the time of writing, there aren’t believed to be any restrictions placed upon sport in tier 3 areas, aside from some travel restrictions. As such, racing at Aintree and neighbouring tracks such as Chester and Haydock Park should be able to go ahead as planned.
Liverpool’s Bookies Braced for ‘Hugely Damaging Impact’
For the next month or so (at least), more than 350 betting shops in the city of Liverpool as well as neighbouring districts such as St Helens, Knowsley and the Wirral will be closed to the public.
In additions, separate households won’t be allowed to mix and other shops, pubs, bars and gyms will also be forced to close.
However, Michael Dugher – chief executive of the Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) – has warned of catastrophic job losses in the city and other regions where the tier 3 rules are applied.
“Across Merseyside, 2,300 people are employed in betting shops and casinos,” he wrote in an open letter to MPs.
“The decision to close them will likely have a huge impact on employment and the survival of these businesses.
“Our members’ venues abide by strict Covid-19 guidelines and have been approved by Public Health England. There’s no evidence that betting shops or casinos have been the source of any outbreak of the coronavirus or have contributed to a rise in the number of cases.”
And the BHA has backed the BGC, with their spokesperson commenting:
“Betting operators have shown they can safely operate shops without breaching social distancing restrictions.
“Racing and betting share a unique, interdependent relationship. Any measures taken which result in the potential closure of thousands of betting shops, which generate critical revenues for British racing through the Levy and media rights payments, will have a hugely damaging impact on both industries’ finances.”