Irish Bookmakers Seek Transparency In Reopening

Confusion reigns over the reopening of Irish bookmakers’ outlets, as the government orders betting shops to remain closed until June 29.

A whopping 800 Irish betting shops reopened their business on Monday (15 June), claiming they had complied with the ‘phase two’ national programme of the Irish government for Coronavirus.

However, Irish betting firms were instructed to close their doors within 24 hours, as the government said betting shops were not included in the statutory arrangement for reopening non-essential Irish retail businesses.

Bookmakers said they had received instructions from the Irish Bookmakers Association (IBA) to start reopening shops on 8 June, with the majority of businesses opting to reopen venues in time for Royal Ascot this week.

With many firms caught off guard, on Tuesday 16 June the IBA was forced to call an emergency meeting that confirmed the actions of the government.

IBA Chair Sharon Byrne told Irish media that the government had not published any details of its statutory arrangement until last week, on the eve of Monday 15 June, when retail businesses reopened.

“It only became available to us on Monday,” she said. “That lists the sectors that are not included in non-essential retail for the purposes of the acceleration of openings.”

Byrne continued: “We’re very surprised. We’re not like concerts or theatres. We’re small retail with low numbers of staff. We have very strict procedures in place. There is definite social distancing. We are absolutely compliant.”

The Irish government replied to the criticism by announcing that bookmakers would have been officially told of ‘schedule 2 arrangements’ signed on June 8 by National Health Minister Simon Harris – in which approved bookmakers are listed among the firms and facilities that are not allowed to operate at this time.

Paddy Power, who on Monday reopened the doors to his English and Irish retail estate, explained that she thought she was acting in accordance with the government’s advice on reopening non-essential shops.

The bookmaker commented: “On Monday, we became aware of an Irish Government specification that bookies should open on June 29th. Hence, we took the decision to close our Irish shops until we have the green light to go ahead.

“For the time being, Paddy’s shops in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland will remain closed but we will keep you updated as the situation develops. All open shops are subject to continual review.

“As our shops reopen in England, and later elsewhere, our number one priority is keeping our customers and team members safe. So, all our shops will follow the government guidelines on social distancing.”