Gambling operators were ordered to shut down their betting shops around the UK as the country tightened social distancing restrictions in the face of the Covid-19 crisis.
Betting shops were part of the group of the non-essential businesses that were asked not to reopen Saturday morning alongside cafes, pubs, leisure centers, cinemas, and museums as the UK grapples to curb the advance of the coronavirus.
Betting shops around the UK are going dark as the dangerous virus that has gripped the world and dominates headlines has resulted in the postponement/cancellation of major sporting events, including Euro 2020 which is now set to take place in the summer of 2021.
Gambling companies running betting shops fear that the shutdown could last for up to two months. That paired with the fact that there are almost no sporting events bettors can place a punt on will come as a big hit to operators’ financial accounts at the end of the year.
William Hill announced earlier this week that it would suspend dividend as part of the measures it intends to take to mitigate the Covid-19 impact on its full-year EBITDA. The company said that it expects its group EBITDA to slump by £100-£110 million if horse racing kept going and betting shops remained open, and by an additional £25-£30 million per month if it was ordered to close its shops.
GVC, which operates the largest chain of betting shops in the UK, said that it estimates group EBITDA to be reduced by £130-£150 million, should betting shops remain open, and by an additional £45-£50 million per month if shops were ordered to close.
Bookmakers Welcome Closure
In response to the order to close its betting shops, GVC said Friday that it was “very welcome to now have clarity and reassurance from the government on this serious matter, as the safety and well-being of our colleagues and customers is of paramount importance.”
Irish gambling group Flutter Entertainment was the first bookmaker to announce the closure of its 350 betting shops around the country on Friday in response to the global coronavirus crisis.
The company, which runs Paddy Power-branded betting shops, said in a Friday statement that its facilities will remain closed until at least the end of April “to protect our retail employees and customers.”
The company added that “there is nothing more important than the safety and well-being of our colleagues and the public during this pandemic.” Flutter updated the market earlier this week, saying that it expects full-year EBITDA to fall by at least £90-£100 million and an additional £30 million per month should its betting shops close.
It also emerged this week that the Republic of Ireland is closing its betting shops, as well, to help contain the spread of the deadly virus. Facilities owned by Flutter and BoyleSports, among other bookmakers, will remain shuttered for at least two weeks.