The Malta Independent 5 August 2021, Thursday

How the Betting Shop Experience has Changed in Post-Lockdown

Friday, 18 June 2021, 08:52 Last update: about 3 months ago

Betting shops have finally reopened their doors across England and Wales, but restrictions and safety measures create a new set of challenges for staff and customers alike. 

Classed as ‘non-essential retail’, betting shops have been under lockdown since December 20th in Wales and January 5th in England.  

As part of the four-stage plan out of lockdown, announced by the UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson in March, betting shops in England and Wales began to open to customers on April 12th. 

However, to remain open, betting shops must continue to adhere to several safety measures. From restricting the number of customers to eight in the shop at one time (depending on the size of the shop) to not showing live sports on TV screens, betting shops have had to adapt. Only two games machines maximum may be turned on, and there are no tables and chairs set out to make customers feel more at home. 

This is the crux of the matter. Betting shops are no longer designed to be comfortable or sociable places.  

Previously, betting shops held an important place in UK communities, providing an alternative to local pubs where, particularly men, could gather and interact socially. For those living alone, and perhaps in advanced years, their regular trips to the betting shop were something to look forward to.  

Screens protect staff and customers but create another barrier between the two.  

While betting shops are no doubt relieved to be open after such a long absence, and punters are happy to have the option to walk off the street and place their bets in person, both staff and customers are finding a much-changed experience.  

Gone are the days of betting socially, idling away hours in a betting shop in the company of like-minded punters, at least for the foreseeable future. Instead, safety measures and restrictions encourage customers to place their bets and then leave.   

Customers can only visit the betting shops a maximum of twice a day and must spend no more than 15 minutes inside on each visit. Betting shops in both Wales and England have also been instructed to close at 8 pm.  

In the wake of such challenges, many customers may choose to continue betting online, particularly with online casinos and sportsbooks offering promo codes and other incentives. However, for those who relied on betting shops for social interaction, the wait continues. 

Then there are the jobs and the boost to the Welsh economy that betting shops provide.  

The Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) estimates that gambling accounts for about 46,000 jobs in Wales and contributed almost £1 billion to the national treasury in 2020. However, with restrictions on customers and opening and visiting times, there are fewer hours and roles for staff. 

The Prime Minister has said that the next stage in the move out of lockdown will be data-driven, meaning the target of bringing England and Wales completely out of lockdown is dependent on the continued success of the vaccination programme and the infection rate staying low. 

In the meantime, betting shops must adhere to all the safety guidelines, to ensure normal service can resume as soon as they are given the go-ahead. 

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