Tier 3 Restrictions Force Closure Of Betting Shops and Casinos Again
With new restrictions and criteria being brought in to regions across the UK we look at what this means for betting shops, bingo halls and casinos in different areas.
The government have announced a new three tier lockdown system in order to control outbreaks on a regional basis. The top tier 3 is the most severe and has initially been put in place in Merseyside with several other regions under tier 2 measures that could at some stage soon also enter tier 3.
What does this mean for punters? During the previous lockdown in March all betting shops, land-based casinos and bingo halls across the country were closed. Betting shops and bingo halls only reopened in mid-June this year in England (later in Scotland and NI) and casinos only opened in early August.
Since then venues have had to implement social distancing measures in order to ensure they are viable, which naturally decreases customer volume and changes the experience as a whole. With the industry as a whole already reeling with closures and job loses already on the cards will it be able to cope with further restrictions put in place?
In What Areas Are Betting Shops & Casinos Closed?
Currently only areas under tier 3 lockdown measures will see the closure of land-based gambling establishments, at the time of writing this covers Merseyside only. This means from Wednesday 14th October all shops and adult gaming centers will be closed to the public.
During this time the only way to bet within a tier 3 area is online. You could travel to another area where restrictions are lower to bet or play, although this would directly contradict the tier 3 restrictions stipulating essential travel only.
Most of the larger bookmakers provide services that allow you to claim outstanding bets by mailing in slips or sending images of winning slips in. This usually requires you to have an online account attached for them to pay into.
Tier 1 restrictions are similar to those that were in place prior to the new measures and apply to areas of medium-alert status. They include 10pm curfews for the hospitality sector and bans gatherings of more than 6 people. This covers most of England at this time.
Tier 2 restrictions cover areas under high alert and include all of the terms of tier 1 along with no mixing between households indoors and rule of 6 only outdoors. Under both of these levels you can still visit a betting shop or casino but only in groups of 6 or less (tier 1) or with members of your own household (tier 2).
Tier 3 restrictions include everything above plus pubs and bars to close (unless serving food), no household mixing indoors or outdoors, gyms, leisure centres, betting shops and casinos to close. Shops and schools can remain open.
Why Betting Shops and Casinos Not Other Shops?
Members of the betting and gaming council expressed disappointment at the decision to close bookies, casinos and adult gaming centres while allowing most other shops to remain open. They point out that in Merseyside the six casinos and hundreds of shops that have been forced to close employ close to 2500 people, many of whom will wonder if they will have a job to go back to given the reduced government financial support this time.
Having made significant efforts to reopen with social distancing, cashless payments and other measures in place those in the gambling industry feel let down by the government decision to single out betting venues as being of a higher risk than other high street shops and restaurants. They point to data that shows little evidence that transmission in places likes shops and casinos is a major contributing factor. The decision was labeled ‘pure tokenism’ by the BGC chief executive Michael Dugher.
Although there is a clear link between pubs and rising cases the same cannot be said for betting. While both alcohol and gambling are both addictive alcohol has obvious additional social connotations and inebriating affects that cannot be said to be true for betting. There are many who feel the current ban is aimed more towards preventing people gambling in lockdown than it is to reduce case load of the virus. If this is the case it is short sighted given a lack of land-based venues could possibly drive more gamblers online.
Will Sports Carry On?
The shutdown of most sporting events in March was largely caused by the fact governing bodies for major sports did not have procedures in place to deal with an epidemic disease. This has certainly changed, on a professional level at least, and so it is unlikely major sports will be discontinued any time soon.
Elite sports players and teams are not effectively kept in bubbles with regular testing to ensure games and events can continue even if the case load is high.
Still, in spite of this we have seen several matches and events cancelled over the preceding months due to small outbreaks within teams. Should cases continue to rise to a level where more sports stars become infected there may reach a point when it no longer becomes viable to run leagues and events.
It seems, however, sport this time will be the last thing to go given the government realise how important it is to maintain morale for many people. Spectators being allowed back to watch live sports, however, now seems a distant prospect.
What About Online Betting?
Online betting continues to be the benefactor of all of the issues in the physical world. Data has shown that online revenues were already growing strongly prior to corona virus and this trend has only increased since with people less able to access shops and casinos in person.
Even when sports were cancelled profits still continued to rise for many companies as more people chose to play casino games. Those who support the land-based industry point to these numbers to show that closing land-based establishments does not necessarily decrease gambling and if anything could drive people towards new digital forms that could potentially be more damaging. For example, someone may visit a shop and place a number of bets and leave, whereas online they may continue to bet due to the convenience.
Online companies also tend to be based abroad and employee most of their people abroad. There is a feeling that penalising land-based outlets, where most jobs are based in the UK and specifically local jobs within regions, will have an adverse effect on communities while digital companies in other countries benefit.