Entain has written to landlords demanding rent reductions in advance of the reopening of the UK’s retail betting market, which has been beset by financial difficulties in recent months.
The company has over 3,000 licenced betting shops in over 30 countries, but the appeal has only been limited to landlords whose leases are up for renewal in the next two years.
The operator explained in the letter that lowering the rent would lower total operating expenses and ensure that its stores stayed ‘competitive and viable,’ protecting the jobs of thousands of retail employees.
Despite the continued financial impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, Jette Nygaard-Andersen, Entain’s newly named CEO, had previously stated that the company would not shutter any more store locations.
While the outbreak has had a financial effect on retail betting – largely due to temporary shop closures in 2020 and 2021 – the industry, among others, has benefited from government funding.
High street betting shops will reopen on April 12th, followed by casinos on May 17th, according to the latest timeline for the UK’s third nationwide lockout.
Call for clarity on reopening
About the fact that the Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) has called for clarity on the reopening date, the standards body has praised the government’s decision to apply rates relief to the retail and hospitality markets, claiming that the change would help operators keep more than 44,000 people employed.
In addition, all non-essential services will offer additional cash transfers of £6,000 per location in “recovery grants,” a scheme that the BGC has praised.
However, calls from the gaming community for the much awaited Grand National to be postponed to coincide with the reopening of retail betting shops were ignored. The Grand National is generally viewed as the busiest day of the year for bookmakers, with many novice bettors making their only wager of the year.
The BGC’s Chief Executive, Michael Dugher, has also chastised the Scottish and Welsh governments for their silence on the gaming industry’s financial woes.
He recently said: “The UK Government’s backing for business stands in stark contrast to the refusal of the devolved administrations in Wales and Scotland to offer business rates relief to our members.
“This has sadly had a disproportionate impact on our smaller independent businesses, many of them family run, which have faced making staff redundant and an uncertain future.”