British Prime Minister Boris Johnson delivered another hammer blow to the UK gambling industry on Friday afternoon by ordering all land-based casinos and betting shops to close their doors with immediate effect.
As it was revealed that the UK death toll from novel coronavirus, officially known as COVID-19, had increased to 184, several non-essential establishments were ordered to temporarily stop trading.
gambling companies privately fear that closures could be extended to at least two months
Land-based casinos and betting shops were listed alongside bingo halls, bars, nightclubs, coffee shops, restaurants, cinemas, leisure centers, and museums. These establishments have been asked to remain closed for two weeks, pending further review. However, many gambling companies privately fear that closures could be extended to at least two months.
Fresh measures announced by the chancellor
The announcement was made at 5pm when the Prime Minister addressed the daily Downing Street press conference. He was flanked by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak, who has found himself in the spotlight in recent weeks.
Other measures announced by the chancellor included business VAT payments being delayed until June and Universal Credit benefit being opened for those who are self-employed.
The announcement of these latest measures follows the Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) criticizing the chancellor for excluding the gambling industry from business rate relief. Despite tens of thousands of jobs being at risk, gambling-related businesses are not eligible for the 12-month business rate exemption. Businesses in the hospitality, leisure, and retail sectors will benefit from the relief.
Flutter first to act
Earlier on Friday, Flutter Entertainment released a statement confirming that it would be closing all 350 Paddy Power betting shops in the UK until the end of April. The world’s largest online betting company had already closed its operations in Ireland until March 29, although this date is likely to be extended.
In its statement, Flutter Entertainment stated that the company was closing its betting shops
in line with the spirit and letter of the latest social distancing guidelines from the government.”
Shortly after the Prime Minister’s announcement, Ladbrokes Coral owner GVC Holdings released a statement confirming that it would be abiding by the government’s request. The company welcomed the government’s clarity and reassurance on the matter before stressing that the “wellbeing of colleagues and customers is of paramount importance.”