Greater Manchester, South Yorkshire Betting Stores and Casinos to Close as New UK Pandemic Orders Emerge

  • Greater Manchester enters Tier 3 lockdown on Friday, followed by South Yorkshire on Saturday
  • Local authorities in Greater Manchester failed to secure £65m financial package pre-lockdown
  • BGC accused government of acting in an “ill-informed and arbitrary manner” in ordering closures
  • Casinos, betting shops in Liverpool, Lancashire, Wales, Scotland also affected by new restrictions
Sign on shop door indicates closure due to COVID-19
Betting stores and casinos in Greater Manchester and South Yorkshire will have to close to comply with new pandemic restrictions in the UK. [Image: Shutterstock.com]

Shutdowns effective Friday, Saturday

Casinos and betting stores in Greater Manchester and South Yorkshire will have to close on Friday and Saturday respectively, in line with new COVID-19 restrictions in the UK.

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson imposed a Tier 3 lockdown on Greater Manchester on Tuesday. The following day, Sheffield City mayor Dan Jarvis said the county of South Yorkshire was also moving to the highest level of COVID-19 restrictions in England after “extensive discussions” with ministers.

moving to the highest level of COVID-19 restrictions in England

The betting and gaming sector in Greater Manchester employs about 3,000 people and generates approximately £84m ($109.7m) in UK Treasury funds each year. In South Yorkshire, there are more than 1,250 people working in casinos and betting stores which contribute a combined £35.2m ($45.95m) to the Treasury annually.

The local authority areas in South Yorkshire that are subject to the new restrictions starting October 24 are Sheffield, Rotherham, Doncaster, and Barnsley. 

Manchester mayor not happy

The new measures for Greater Manchester will come into effect after the local authorities and the UK government did not reach an agreement on a financial support package for low-paid workers and businesses in the area.

ministers “walked away” from talks after refusing to provide the region with a £65m ($84.85m) bailout

Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham claimed that ministers “walked away” from talks after refusing to provide the region with a £65m ($84.85m) bailout before it would enter Tier 3 lockdown. 

Mayor Burnham highlighted that those employed in betting stores and pubs as well as taxi drivers will be the hardest hit by the latest lockdown. He described these workers as “people too often forgotten by those in power.”

Reaction from the BGC

The Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) accused the UK government of acting in an “ill-informed and arbitrary” manner by closing casinos and betting stores without any evidence of how such facilities contribute to the spread of coronavirus. 

The industry association’s chief executive, Michael Dugher, wrote a letter to Business Secretary Alok Sharma urging his department to block the announced closures.

Despite having extensive health and safety measures in place, betting stores are the only non-essential high street retail operations that have to close as part of the Tier 3 lockdowns across the UK.

The BGC chief penned another letter to local leaders in areas that currently have Tier 2 measures in place, calling on them to oppose any future attempts to close casinos and betting stores. Dugher supported the government’s commitment to tackling COVID-19 but went on to say: “The decision to close betting shops won’t help with that, but it does put in jeopardy an industry that will be much-needed to help power the economy and the Exchequer to recovery.”

Other regions closing down

Over the past week or so, the UK government also announced Tier 3 lockdowns for Liverpool and Lancashire. Nine casinos and close to 550 betting stores between the two UK regions have had to cease operations, leaving about 3,400 people out of work.

On Monday, Wales announced a “time-limited firebreak” which will see betting stores and casinos remain closed until November 9. The doors of bingo halls and casinos in the central belt of Scotland have already been shut for 16 days because of increased pandemic restrictions.