In a bid to revive the retail side of their business, Entain, formerly GVC Holdings, are giving their high street bookmaking operations a makeover.
The plan is to shift the image of the traditional betting shop from that of a dingy old man’s hangout into a social café experience.
In essence, while they will continue accept bets, they will become more akin to cafes than betting shops in a move to entice back young bettors, now more used to betting online, and those who don’t normally bet.
In fact, the idea is that not everyone will bet, some people will come in to use it as a shared hosting space or for a hot drink. Of course, Entain hope in the long run this will attract new punters to the declining retail betting shops. Whether this will catch on in the UK, though, is another thing.
Ladbrokes, Coral and Eurobet
The firm own Ladbrokes, Coral and Eurobet and have already launched digital displays in a number of their outlets, replacing the traditional newspaper form guides.
The move towards a café culture has already been rolled out by Entain in Italy where a social coffee vibe already existed.
The rollout will then follow in to other European markets where Entain operate soon after if proven to be popular.
How well the UK will take to it remains to be seen, given that it will likely take a significant shift in attitudes to entice millennials back through the door, especially ones that don’t bet, gamble or watch live sport.
What has been clear for a long time however is that online betting has overtaken retail, which hasn’t been helped by the Covid-19 pandemic that rendered betting shops closed for much of the past 18 months. Add that to the aging population, and its clear that betting shops need a rebrand.
Overall, the high street is struggling right now. In part of the UK, it is believed that as many as one in five shops is vacant.
£100 Million Refurbishments
In what will be Entain’s biggest ever retail investment, the company will spend around £100 million on a nationwide refurbishment that will completely alter the appearance of the high street betting shops.
The plan is to turn every Ladbrokes and Coral in the land into a contemporary, digital space to enhance the omni-channel experience for their customers. This should bring the retail side of the business closer to the dynamic online experience where business is currently booming.
The new digital hubs will offer interactive betting and casino content in the same way that mobile apps to. These will be displayed on interactive touch screens, however, how this works during a pandemic remains to be seen.
Already, 18 stores have had there digital hubs installed with the plan being to have as many as 30 betting shops converted before the end of the year. The company have set a goal of having 200 converted shops in the UK by the end of 2024.
These new shops will be located in London, Leeds, Leicester Birmingham, Wolverhampton, Newcastle, Portsmouth, Sunderland and Dumfries.
Managing Director of Entain Retail in the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland, Andy Hicks said;
“Our shops are at the heart of local communities and employ around 13,000 people across the country. We want to bring the experiences customers have with us online into our shops, also making them more digital and contemporary environments. We want to offer local customers a place to socialise, enjoy sports, bet and play games in a relaxed and enjoyable way.”
An Inspired Move?
While betting shops clearly are clearly in need of refreshment, the move to digitalise them wont be welcome news to everyone and could steer more traditional bettors in to the arms of rival firms such as Paddy Power, Betfred and William Hill (or 888 as they are now).
Certainly, that will be the case for some who would prefer to listen to the sound of greyhound and horse racing commentary in the background rather than easy listening music or silence, if that’s the direction Entain choose to take.
It is surely a smart move by Entain to effectively trial the move to digitalisation in 30 shops in the UK as opposed to 200 in Italy.
Should the innovative move work though it will breathe new life into the industry and potentially enhance the all round betting experience for many.
If this should prove to be the case the move will be inspired, and the firm will have stollen a march on their rivals. Time will tell.