UKGC Issues COVID-19 Guidance as British Betting Shops Reopen

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British betting and gaming venues are preparing to reopen their doors based on guidance from the UK Gambling Commission.

Betting shops
Betting shops in England have officially reopened as the government starts to relax its coronavirus lockdown restrictions. (Image: Wikipedia/Edwardx)

The UK is still in a state of partial lockdown, but business is resuming. To ensure betting venues fall in line with government standards, the UKGC has published its guidelines for land-based gambling premises.

Social distancing and sanitization will be paramount when venues reopen. However, the UKGC is stressing that operators can’t forget about the issue of problem gambling.

Getting Back to Business 

As independent nations within the UK, Scotland, Wales, and Ireland have their own COVID-19 rules. However, stores, outdoor entertainment venues, and betting shops in England were allowed to reopen on Monday.

To support the government’s post-lockdown trading rules, the UKGC issued guidance on how to serve customers while maintaining existing standards.

By and large, operators are free to implement their own social distancing measures. These can include placing markings on the floor and installing screens around fixed-odds betting terminals (FOBTs).

Whichever ways betting shops choose to safeguard their customers, supervision must not be compromised.

“Operators must ensure that whatever measures they put in place to socially distance customers, staff can continue to supervise the premises, monitor customer behavior for signs of gambling-related harm and monitor compliance with age-restrictions,” reads the UKGC’s June 12 notice.

One of the major issues the UKGC wants to avoid is customers using face masks to hide their identity. As far as officials are concerned, age and identity verification checks are still enforceable.

Operators can ask customers to temporarily remove their masks for identification purposes. Anyone that fails to do so won’t be allowed to place a bet.

Getting Back to Normal After COVID-19

The easing of restrictions couldn’t come at a better time for operators. This week sees the return of English soccer and the Premier League, as well as horse racing from Royal Ascot.

Ladbrokes wasted no time and opened 2,445 stores on Monday. William Hill is taking a gradual approach. 734 of its betting venues reopened on Monday, while the remainder of its 1,538 stores will resume operations over the coming weeks.

Betting shops in Scotland, Wales, and Ireland are still awaiting guidance on when they can reopen. Looking forward, casinos are expected to resume business on July 4. Although this isn’t official, that’s the next significant date in the UK’s post-lockdown roadmap.

The UKGC told operators that the same guidance will apply to casinos as it does to betting shops. However, it’s not yet clear whether any new instructions will be issued.

British casino operators now have the opportunity to see how other countries are tackling life on the gaming floor in a post-COVID-19 environment. Las Vegas lit up in early June, while King’s Casino Rozvadov is already hosting mask-free poker games.

The UK may be slightly behind the curve, though the wheels are finally in motion, which means operators should be able to recoup at least some of their losses heading into the second half of 2020.

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