Planning a return on June 15
GVC Holdings, the parent company of the Coral and Ladbrokes betting shops across the UK, is hoping to have at least some of its stores open in time for the Royal Ascot. It said on Monday that it is “well prepared” to have some of its retail sportsbooks ready to resume operations on June 15, the day before annual horse race meeting takes place behind closed doors.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced June 15 as the new reopening date
The previous plan was for retail betting facilities to open at some stage after July 4, when the third phase of the UK government’s reopening plan begins. On Monday evening, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced June 15 as the new reopening date for certain non-essential business outlets. The government also issued a list of establishments that can operate from the said date. These include sportsbooks, fashion stores, gift shops, and photography studios.
A GVC spokesperson said the company will be following all public health body guidance on reopening in a safe manner.
Cost of race suspensions
Racing in the UK has been suspended since the middle of March following the outbreak of COVID-19. This has led to significant revenue loss due to the absence of live racing and contributions from betting operators.
Off-course betting companies contribute around £8m ($9.8m) each month to the racing industry through the Betting Levy. They also pay millions to the race tracks in return for access to media rights for live racing action.
races up and running behind closed doors from June 1
With Johnson banning professional sports events until June, the British Horseracing Authority plans to have races up and running behind closed doors from June 1.
Sportsbooks deal with the pandemic
Sportsbooks have also felt the brunt of the lack of sporting action. Tens of thousands of people have been furloughed as companies were forced to cut dividends and issue profit warnings.
Coral and Ladbrokes had to close 3,100 betting stores nationwide, while competitor William Hill shut down about 2,300 stores.
Betting on horse racing is a major source of revenue for sportsbooks in the UK. The five-day Royal Ascot race meet will be the first major sporting event to take place following the easing of restrictions in the country. It normally generates about £5m ($6.1m) from the Betting Levy, with half of this sum coming from the retail betting facilities.