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.
Australian casino operator Crown Resorts was forced to close temporarily the main gaming floor at its flagship casino in Melbourne after it was stripped of its exemption from rules adopted across the state of Victoria to contain the spread of the coronavirus.
While many non-essential business across Victoria were ordered to shutter in the face of the global Covid-19 crisis, Crown was granted by the state’s government an exemption from social distancing rules. The move caused quite the controversy.
Crown’s Melbourne casino was allowed to continue to operate as long as it made sure to limit indoor gatherings to no more than 100 people. The major casino deactivated every second slot machine (or poker machine as they are called Down Under) and limited attendance numbers at its restaurants, bars, and other facilities to avoid large gatherings of people.
Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews announced on Saturday that Crown’s exemption has been revoked and the casino was ordered to close its main gaming floor. The state’s top official said that they were not confident that “the measures that were in place and were appropriate are appropriate now.”
Only the main gaming floor at Crown Melbourne would close temporarily. Smaller gambling rooms will remain open, it became known.
Gambling Amid Pandemic
Crown’s exemption from the social distancing rules implemented across Victoria was heavily protested by health experts who argued that the Melbourne casino should have been ordered to play by the same rules as everyone else as Victoria, just as the rest of the world, struggles to curb the spread of the dangerous virus that has gripped every single contour of society.
Pressure over Crown keeping its Melbourne casino open escalated this week after widespread closures of gambling facilities were announced all over the world, including Las Vegas.
Later, Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak ordered the closure of all gaming properties across the state as part of a larger package of measures aiming to help contain the spread of the coronavirus.
Australian public health officials have been urging governments in every state and territory to take specific measures addressing gambling establishments that have poker machines as these often attract older people who are considered to be at a greater risk from Covid-19.
The closure of Crown Melbourne is expected to have a huge impact on Victoria’s economy as the hotel and casino complex is the state’s largest private-sector, single-site employer with more than 12,500 employees.
Crown is also a big revenue contributor. The property paid more than A$238 million in taxes to Victoria in the last financial year.
The number of coronavirus cases in Victoria reached 229 today after 51 new cases were recorded overnight. Nationwide, the tally of Covid-19 cases reached 1,072 on Saturday.
Playtech closed all its Snaitech betting shops around Italy as the country grapples to contain the spread of Covid-19 as deaths continue to rise.
The Italian government issued a decree this past Sunday that all brick-and-mortar gambling facilities, including betting shops, arcades, and bingo halls, across the country should close and remain closed until April 3.
The closure of betting facilities comes as part of a large set of emergency coronavirus measures implemented by the Italian government, which also include a ban on all public gatherings across all 20 Italian regions and severe travel restrictions.
The country’s death toll rocketed from 366 to 463 on Monday while the number of confirmed cases stood at 9,172, making Italy the worst-affected country after China where the virus is believed to originate.
Playech’s Snaitech unit is Italy’s biggest sports betting operator. The company said Monday that its online gambling activity would continue and “may prove to mitigate some of the impact.”
Playtech also noted that “an increase in market volatility has led to a very strong performance within TradeTech year-to-date.”
The gambling technology giant said that it would continue to “monitor the situation closely” and would provide updates accordingly.
Warning over 2020 Results
Playtech warned investors last month that the coronavirus outbreak could hurt its yearly results. The company’s profits fell last year, as well. It blamed the decline on “the impairment of intangible assets of the Markets and Alpha cash generating units, amounting to €90.1 million.”
Of its Italian B2C business, Playtech said last month that it initially started strong. However, the firm noted that the strong performance in the first weeks of 2020 could be affected by the spread of Covid-19 in Italy.
Playtech told investors in late February that:
[…]in the last two weeks it has started to see a material impact from changes in normal customer patterns due to COVID-19 which is significantly affecting two of its largest markets. Accordingly, results for 2020 are likely to be below existing market expectations”.
Playtech’s Italian arm gained quite some momentum last year. On Snaitech’s 2019 performance, Playtech Chairman Alan Jackson said that the betting operator “had a fantastic 2019” and that it reached the “number one market share position” for online sports betting and gaming in Italy in the second quarter of the year.
Snaitech became part of the larger Playtech group in the spring of 2018 when the gambling technology provider announced that it had agreed to purchase a 70.6% stake in the Italian betting and gaming firm for €291 million.
Snaitech offers retail betting, online sports betting, and online casino games in Italy, but is also involved in racetrack management and television services. Playtech bought the Italian operator as it sought to source most of its revenue from regulated markets.