The UK will take a targeted approach towards reopening of businesses, with regions classified as Tier 3 keeping their businesses – including casinos and sports betting shops – shut down.
National Lockdown to End on December 2
The United Kingdom’s sports betting and gambling sectors will make another attempt to return to normalcy after Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced on Monday, November 23, that England will exit the national lockdown on December 2.
The lockdown, which started on November 5 and prompted the shutdowns of betting shops and casinos, will now allow affected businesses to begin reopening in Tier 2 regions.
However, what regions will restart business and at what operations will depend solely on the number of positive coronavirus infections, reproduction rate and local National Health System (NHS) branches capacity to cope with infections.
The government will enact and scale back measures of varying strength to best address the situation as it sees fit. The biggest winners are of course betting shops which have had to shut down en masse, with the Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) long advocating against the move.
Casinos and betting shops that are still in regions the government deems necessary to shut down, though, will once again suffer. Shutdowns will occur during Tier 3 restrictions with opening considered at Tier 2.
Fans Are Back in the Stadiums
Another big revelation delivered by Prime Minister Johnson was that fans will be allowed to go back to stadiums and attend live events. This is big news for the country’s parched sports base which has been yearning to get back to stadiums for months now.
Since the shut-down was introduced in March, no live attendance has been allowed at sports event, tanking gate receipts and costing sports clubs a pretty penny. The restoration of live attendance will come with reduced capacity.
Venues may host up to 50% of their capacity but no more than 4,000 fans in outdoor stadiums in Tier 1. Only 2,000 spectators will be allowed to attend during Tier 2, though, at least until covid-19 cases start decreasing rapidly.
Meanwhile, indoors venues will have to restrict their live attendance to just 50% or 1,000 fans, whichever is lower. The government will continue to use tiers to determine which regions may reopen and which should remain shut until at least March, the Prime Minister said, discussing the measures with his colleagues from Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
Betting and Gaming Council Happy with Developments
The BGC was pleased with the news, having long advocated for a more targeted approach towards the shutting down of businesses, and specifically using scientific data to prove when shutdowns are necessary.
It has long been the BGC’s position that in the case of betting shops and casinos, both types of businesses were completely able to guarantee the safety of customers and limit the chance of disease transmission. However, the BGC and partners are stepping up their efforts, BGC chief executive Michael Dugher noted:
“On top of the stringent anti-Covid measures betting shops already adhere to, our members have agreed to further restrictions to limit any chance of Covid-19 being transmitted in their premises.”
BGC chief executive Michael Dugher
Dugher still insisted that the government would be wrong to pursue casino and betting shops closures in Tier 3 regions, urging instead, to assess the actual risk of transmission of disease at such venues.
He reminded the government that among hospitality businesses, casinos were unmatched in their ability to ensure the safety of patrons and staff. On the plus side, Dugher and the BGC were happy with the decision to extend the curfew to 11 pm, which would give businesses a little more time to generate turnover.
Dugher is not the only executive to have cautioned about the premature closure of businesses and welcome back the decision to allow attendance. British Horse Racing Authority chief executive Nick Rust said that the new guidelines made it easier for the industry to start generating revenue.
He was joined by Racecourse Association chief David Armstrong who saw in the latest announcement by the government a way to move past the pandemic. Even limited attendance is welcome. In the meantime, the country has chosen to target sports betting partnerships, which the BGC argued are important to guarantee sports teams survival.