Well it looks like COVID is back for a second spike, and the governments plan to deal with it includes a three tier lockdown system depending on the number of cases in any particular area.
Any areas placed into Tier 3 could see their pubs, leisure centres, bookies and casinos having to close their doors once more, until the restrictions are lifted.
This will put the same financial pressure on all those affected as was experienced in the middle of the year when there was no end to lockdown in sight, and the sense of uncertainty won’t do anyone’s mental health any good.
When you look at some of the sectors and businesses that haven’t been included in this lockdown though, it also raises some questions that don’t seem to have logical answers.
Why are Bookies & Casinos Potentially Closing?
In August we looked at what a bookie shop was like post lockdown, and found that they were keeping their end of the bargain by creating an environment where people could socially distance and keep safe – it was the punters who weren’t playing by the rules.
There is only so much you can realistically ask a business to do. A bookmaker can refuse custom to someone not wearing a mask, for example, but it’s impossible to police social distancing and hand washing – the staff would never get anything else done.
Plus, most bookmakers aren’t exactly heaving with people on an average day, so it does seem a little unfair for them to have to shut completely while other businesses like restaurants or pubs that serve main meals can continue to trade.
Indeed, other retail outlets are thought to be unaffected, shops that could literally be next door to a bookmaker – what is the difference between one retail plot and the next? The same thing goes on inside; people wander around a little bit, spend some money, then leave.
It could be argued that a bookie isn’t an essential service and that people can continue to bet online, but that’s not much solace to anyone who works in a bookmakers shop, or to the business itself which will lose trade but still incur costs like rent. And besides, you could say the same thing about clothes shopping, or ordering food in.
Is it fair to target bookmakers and casinos? I don’t think so. It doesn’t even make a great deal of sense.
What Will Happen if Bookmakers and Casinos Close?
Judging by what happened during the first lockdown, it can be assumed that online trade will see some growth. Those who want to gamble will simply turn their attention to the internet, although the swing won’t be huge – during the last lockdown around 73% of people said they did not increase time or money spent gambling due to lockdown.
What’s more, since there are no current plans to cancel any sports (most are simply played without a live audience at the moment) there will be no shortage of events to bet on. One thing that did change previously was exactly what people were gambling on, with sports bettors seeking alternatives while most sports were on hold – virtual betting saw a 37% increase. That will not be a factor this time.
There is no question that casino games and sports betting will get through this just fine on the whole, but what of the high street venues?
There is only so long any business can weather a storm, and as far as bookmakers are concerned, dwindling footfall over the years has already seen the high street shops change beyond recognition as more and more people gamble online.
This latest lockdown could be the catalyst for a series of closures across all brands as shops that make them less money are cut away to reduce costs.
When it comes to high street casinos it can be assumed that their costs are much more significant given the size of them and the number of staff they employ. There are only a handful of casino operators in the UK, so it would only take one of those businesses to fail and a significant number of high street casinos would close instantly, taking hundreds of jobs with them.