Ireland’s retail bookmakers plan to reopen their shops in the final week of June, despite plans to reopen three weeks earlier for local racing.
The Irish Bookmakers Association (IBA) announced this past weekend that an agreement was reached on June 29 to reopen 755 of the nation’s 814 betting shops. The timing coincides with the Irish Government’s third step of strategy to revive its economy following the COVID-19 pandemic.
Ireland closed most of its betting shops in mid-March in an attempt to minimise further coronavirus spread, but at the time the IBA stated that the shutdown was intended to last only two weeks, not the three-plus months it is currently scheduled to last.
Irish racing plans to resume operations ‘behind closed doors’ at some centrally located racecourses on June 8 – coinciding with phase two of the government’s roadmap for recovery – with the Irish Derby hoping to stick to its current target of June 27. If so, this means this Irish bookmakers would lose out on their usual calendar on one of the bigger paydays.
We would need to develop clear guidelines for social distancing, disinfection and other issues before the shops open. Shops can run on a limited range, with customers encouraged to remain on the in-shop televisions only long enough to place their bet rather than continue watching a game.
That said, it remains to be seen how keen betters will be on entering a confined space to wager, especially when there are plenty of online betting options.
There are nearly 6,000 shop employees and support personnel who have been practically idle since the March closure, while betting operators have attempted to negotiate rental relief with their tenants, with varying degrees of success.
Thanks to the new 2 percent turnover tax, the sector was already struggling before the pandemic, a burden that the tiny tax cuts the government offered mom-and-pop bookies in the 2020 budget could not hope to mitigate. Hopes are growing that a sector that can not bear too much more bad luck will be given some additional fiscal relief by the Government.