In tier three areas in England, betting shops have been given the green light to reopen their doors once the new national lockout restrictions are eased.
The move was confirmed by Prime Minister Boris Johnson as he set out specifics of how England would emerge from the national lockdown on 3 December.
The announcement was welcomed by Michael Dugher, the chief executive of the Betting and Gaming Council (BGC), who reaffirmed his commitment to upholding the highest possible safety standards.
He said: “This is great news for our customers in communities across large parts of England and for the thousands of people employed in high street betting shops. I know how hard in particular the DCMS battled for their sectors and ministers deserve our sincere thanks.
“On top of the stringent anti-Covid measures betting shops already adhere to, our members have agreed to further restrictions to limit any chance of Covid being transmitted in their premises.
“We now look forward to England coming out of lockdown next week, with betting shops back contributing to the Exchequer and playing their part in helping power the country’s economic recovery.”
Under current measures, the only portion of non-essential high street retail that must remain closed in tier three areas is betting shops.
But shops will be able to remain open from 3 December with some limitations in place, including customer quotas, elimination of chairs and a ban on live sport being broadcast.
These are in addition to the anti-Covid measures already built by betting shops during the first lockout, including hand sanitisers, perspex windows, track and trace systems and strict social distancing.
Bookmakers also welcomed the news that small audiences would be able to watch live sporting events from 3 December. In the tier one areas of England, up to 4,000 individuals will be allowed to visit outdoor sporting venues. This declines to 2,000 tier 2 spectators, and no tier three fans.
Secretary of Culture Oliver Dowden stated: “I’m delighted we are able to get the turnstiles turning sooner than expected, taking a cautious approach and starting with the lowest risk areas first.
“I’m confident that sports will take every step to ensure their fans are safe, and fans will play their part and look out for each other until we can safely get everyone back in.”
Dugher backed the decision to invite fans back to the stadiums, acknowledging the ‘devastating’ impact on sports such as football and horseracing that the spectator ban has had.
He said: “It’s great that some crowds will be allowed back to watch live sport in tiers one and two. The ban has been devastating for sports like horse racing and football, so this sensible step comes at just the right time.”
But although the reopening of casinos and the return of viewers has been widely welcomed by the betting industry, after the Prime Minister announced that they will remain closed in tier three regions, casinos face more confusion.
Dugher, responding to this, expressed his disappointment: “Casinos are best-in-class amongst the hospitality sector when it comes to anti-Covid measures. There is no evidence that they contribute to the spread of the virus. So it remains extremely disappointing that they are still being ordered to close in tier 3 areas.
“We do welcome the decision to extend the hospitality curfew by an hour to 11pm, but we will continue to make the case that casinos are uniquely exposed to any curfew and we will press for their full and safe reopening in all parts of the country.”