What Will Betting Shops Be Like After Lockdown? Is It The Beginning Of The End For The Bookies?
In line with the early but gradual easing of the lockdown, William Hill have announced plans to reopen their high street betting shops in the second half of the year beginning in July. Hills have, rather obviously, pledged to commit to customer safety and protection when they open for business again, while also taking care of staff but what will that involve?
Hills, perhaps forecasting that the entirety of the business will soon be emigrated online, also made a point of noting that their online business had performed very strongly over lockdown and that they will look to become a digitally led business going forward. Which makes sense, their revenues more than halved during the coronavirus lockdown.
In the face of future outbreaks and lockdowns, or even when normalcy returns, the online end of the business is recession proof. Non-contact, indoors and isolated, it is everything the high street is not.
Betting On The High Street After Lockdown
Whichever way we look at it, things inside a betting shop will never be the same again. As yet, no one knows what we will be able to do in bookmaker shops when they reopen but we do know that the experience will be vastly different.
There are plenty of parts of old school betting that can be undertaken – to a certain extent – without touching taking place. The papers can still be put up on the walls for people to view so long as they don’t touch but what about time extent? Will punters be forced to accept a time limit on each paper?
Of course, this could work in the mornings, for the horses at least, but what about in the afternoon when the races are going off? Everyone will want to circle around the same form guides before watching the race.
And that’s only if the TVs are even turned back on. Bookmakers cannot be blamed if they decide that, however much people might want to, they will not be able to watch live sport such as horse racing and greyhounds because it is far too communal an activity in the new world.
Punters will also be forced to queue patiently, at a required distance, for their winnings. For anyone that’s ever spent time in a bookies, patience isn’t always a necessary virtue of the bettor. How can staff intervene when a customer becomes disruptive when social distancing will make it incredibly difficult and potentially dangerous to do so?
Even then, can we, should we even, return to a cash based society? As someone who shops by app scanning before paying on a contactless till, I had already all but eradicated cash from my life but not everyone is as trusting in cyber technology as I am. Many, many people prefer cash while others just don’t trust their bankroll being reliant on potentially vulnerable digital services.
Might scanning by app be a way forward for betting shops, the industry big boys at least. But then, even if they could, would it be worth their investment given the imperial rise of the mobile.
While it would remove the need for gloves or personal pens, both of which must surely be incoming, there are plenty of the opinion that high street betting shops are for the older generations so they were already on the endangered list before the lockdown was belatedly and fuzzily, kind of enforced.
One thing keeping the high street shops alive was the Fixed Odds Betting Terminals (FOBTs), at least prior to the lowering of the maximum stake. But can these remain available given their reliance on communal touch screens, a sure fire petri dish of infection risks.
The advantage the high street had over the mobile is, of course, that people could meet up and chat with their friends. But can that even continue, especially given that the shop toilet or the tea and coffee facilities are unlikely to be available. Perhaps over time, pubs will surely hope so, but whether bookmakers can survive in the meantime remains to be seen.