The UK’s route out of lockdown has been set, which means betting stores and casinos are set to reopen in the coming months.
In the COVID roadmap outlined by Prime Minister Boris Johnson this week, “non-essential” stores can reopen on April 12. All being well, casinos will then open their doors on May 17.
The roadmap comes with a number of caveats and the deadlines could be revised. Johnson has also said that the plan is to not go backward after each of the four stages is unlocked.
UK casinos could be fully functional this summer
Assuming Johnson and his cabinet are true to their words, the UK’s entertainment sector could be fully operational by the summer. As per the fourth and final stage of the roadmap, “all legal limits on social contact” will be removed on June 21.
That would be fantastic news for betting and gaming, an industry that’s been battered by on-again/off-again COVID restrictions for the better part of a year.
British casinos and betting stores were first forced to close in March 2020 due to a nationwide lockdown. A spring and summer reprieve allowed stores to reopen before casinos followed suit.
By late October, rising infection rates plunged the UK into a regional lockdown system. Despite offers to change opening times and to stop selling alcohol, it was a matter of weeks before all gambling venues were again off-limits.
With betting stores and casinos in the UK closed since November, the latest news from Johnson will raise spirits. However, there’s a long way to go between now and when any type of live betting activity returns.
UK casinos and betting stores may be permanently scarred
We already know that budget cuts mean Genting casinos won’t offer live poker anymore. We also know that, at one point last year, more than 100 casinos were at risk of closing for good.
The Rank Group, which owns Grosvenor Casinos and Mecca Bingo, was losing £10 million/$12.2 million a month during the initial lockdown. Between this and other venues closing, up to 6,000 jobs have been at risk over the last 12 months.
Those in danger now have just a few months to hang on until things change, but the wheels are already in motion.
The organizers of the Grand National, one of the world’s biggest jumps races, are considering pushing back the start date this year.
The horse racing event is due to run on April 10, two days before betting shops are allowed to reopen. The Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) is now in talks with the British Horse Racing Authority and government officials in an effort to postpone the race.
Around £125 million/$176 million is wagered on the Grand National each year. If the race takes place after betting shops reopen, it could kickstart bookmakers back into normality.
Casinos could be in a similar situation over the next few months. If they reopen on May 17 as planned, they would have plenty of time to prepare for what could be seen as Britain’s summer of COVID freedom.
Nothing is a sure bet at this point, but after months of negative news, we finally have some positives at which to aim.