Betting Stores in England to Reopen with Some Strange Rules

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England’s national lockdown ends tomorrow and betting stores in parts of the country will reopen, albeit with some unusual restrictions in place.

William Hill betting store
Betting stores in England will reopen on Dec. 2, but some will have to limit customers to 15-minute visits. (Image: William Hill)

The new tier system comes into force on Dec. 2 and, although venues will be open in all regions, those in “high-risk” areas have to follow additional safety measures.

All operators in Tier 3 zones must follow a new set of rules that include limits on how long customers can spend inside their stores.

Betting Stores Open, but Not as Usual

William Hill sent an email to all customers in England last night with an overview of what to expect if they live in a Tier 3 hotspot.

The good news is that the doors will be open just as they were in the summer. The downside, as some may see it, is that visits will be limited to 15 minutes.

The rules in place for betting stores owned by William Hill, Paddy Power, and others in Tier 3 regions are:

  • Customers can only spend 15 minutes inside the store
  • Customers will be limited to two visits per day
  • Maximum occupancy limits will be lower than in Tier 2 and Tier 1 regions — eight people is the maximum capacity, but some smaller stores will have lower limits
  • Stores will close at 8pm
  • Only two gaming machines will be operational
  • Live events won’t be shown inside the store
  • There will be no furniture other than for members of staff
  • Lucky 6 bets (a lotto game) won’t be available

The Tier 3 rules will run in tandem with social distancing guidelines of 1 meter, hand sanitizer stations, and a requirement to complete track and trace forms.

England in Tiers Amid National Divides

In contrast to their English counterparts, betting stores in Wales are now trading under normal conditions. However, many areas of Scotland currently have restrictions in place that prevent all non-essential businesses from reopening.

Aside from the disparity between different parts of the UK, England’s new tier system is causing problems for many businesses. Around 100 Conservative MPs are rumored to be against the new system and will vote against their own party’s measures.

That won’t stop the rules coming into play on Dec. 2. The positive for betting stores is that they can reopen in all tiers, but a potential downside for operators is the time restrictions.

covid paddy power
COVID-19 safety measures in place at Paddy Power stores. (Image: Paddy Power)

Betting stores derive a significant portion of their income from fixed-odds betting terminals (FOBTs). When a £2 maximum stake was introduced in 2019, every operator, including William Hill, saw revenue drop.

With customers in England’s Tier 3 regions only allowed to spend 15 minutes inside a store, income will be far below the levels expected under normal conditions.

Add to this a lack of evidence that such a measure will prevent the spread of COVID-19, and the policy isn’t ideal for betting store owners.

With some semblance of normality returning and vaccines on the horizon, all of the UK’s beleaguered betting stores will be looking toward a more positive 2021.

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