Betting shops in England could reopen in April

Ladbrokes retail betting shop

England’s retail betting shops could reopen from 12 April along with other non-essential retail businesses according to the UK government’s roadmap out of the current coronavirus lockdown.

During a press conference last night, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson unveiled the government’s “roadmap out of lockdown” which outlined a phased reopening of the country beginning on 8 March with the reopening of schools.

All land-based gambling businesses have been closed since 5 January when the UK entered its third national lockdown. Some land-based venues have been closed even longer due to the tiered restrictions that preceded the lockdowns.

The “roadmap out of lockdown”

Johnson’s “roadmap out of lockdown” was first detailed in the Houses of Parliament yesterday and then presented to the public in a televised press conference.

The first stage of the plan will begin with the reopening of schools on 8 March 2021. The second phase of the plan will see the reopening of non-essential retail businesses, which includes betting shops, on 12 April.

In his Downing Street briefing, Johnson said: “With every day that goes by this programme of vaccination is creating a shield around the entire population which means we’re travelling on a one-way road to freedom and we can begin to safely start our lives and with confidence.

“Thanks to the vaccinations there’s light leading us to a spring and summer which I think will be seasons of hope, looking and feeling incomparably better and from which we won’t go back.”

If the first two phases of the reopening of the country go to plan then sports venues could reopen their doors to fans from 17 May. These venues will be allowed to operate at a capacity of 4,000 people or 50% of capacity, which is lower. Outdoor seated events will be allowed to have 10,000 in attendance or 25% of capacity, whichever is less.

Other gambling venues, which includes casinos, bingo halls and adult gaming centres, are expected to reopen alongside sports venues.

In a statement, the Football Association said: “The FA is absolutely delighted fans will be allowed back soon. The game is simply not the same without them and we look forward to the return of full stadiums as soon as it is safe and possible.”

According to the government’s plan, there will be five weeks between each stage of restrictions being lifted. The four-week gaps will be used to assess new data and a week’s notice will be given to different sectors to prepare for reopening.

While outlining the plan, Johnson explained that the phases outlined would depend on the data about the spread of the virus. If a step in the plan is delayed, this would result in subsequent steps also being pushed back.

The process of reopening the country will also depend on the outcome of four different tests, which include:

  • The successful deployment of the vaccination scheme
  • Evidence showing a reduction in hospitalisation and deaths among the vaccinated population
  • Evidence to suggest that ‘infection rates do not risk a surge in hospitalisations which would put unsustainable pressure on the NHS’
  • That the government’s assessment of the risks is not fundamentally changed by new Variants of Concern.”

Johnson described the recovery plan as “cautious but irreversible.” According to the Prime Minister the reopening schedule would be a “one-way” road, with the aim of no reintroduction of restrictions once they are lifted.

This comes after the Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) called for the reopening of the land-based gambling sector alongside similar businesses.

The BGC’s call to action

The BGC has called for the government to allow for betting shops and casinos to reopen at the same time as other businesses when restrictions are eased to help create a “level playing field.”

The BGC’s chief executive Michael Dugher said: “As the vaccine roll out continues and the country begins to emerge from lockdown, it is important that businesses are able to plan effectively for reopening. Ministers must be clear from the outset what the next few months will look like and there should be a consistent approach across the sectors.

“Betting shops must be allowed to reopen alongside other non-essential retail. Last summer, when most betting shops were able to open, they showed that they have best-in-class anti-covid measures compared to any other part of the high street to protect customers and staff. It is vital that ministers allow them to play their part in stimulating the high street, along with other non-essential retailers.