Last week, we closed the doors of all our shops, along with all other non-essential retail in England.
If that’s what it takes to get Covid-19 under control then we are fully behind this course of action, although it will mean putting 420 colleagues back on furlough.
While we understand the closing down plans, what we don’t understand are the proposals for opening up again under the Government’s tier system.
The issue that creates anxiety and uncertainty among our staff and customers is that, for some inexplicable reason, betting shops are the only non-essential retail outlets that re-opened safely on June 15th that have been placed on the Tier 3 closure list. That means, as things stand, we are very unlikely to be reopening in the majority of the country when the current lockdown is lifted on December 2.
Betting shops are in a completely unique situation – considered safe enough to open in the first wave, proved to be safe after re-opening in the summer, and yet closed down again in the autumn.
Jenningsbet alone spent £350,000 ensuring our shops were safe to open, with the introduction of anti-Covid measures. We followed the PHE guidance, changing the layout of our branches including fitting protective screens and providing all staff with PPE. Our managing director, Greg Knight, explained more in a blog for this website in June.
We spent considerable time and effort ensuring that we were compliant with Test and Trace and the ever-shifting rules regarding face masks, social distancing and local area restrictions.
Everyone in our company has worked hard to play our part in the national interest of keeping everyone safe. We were checked and tested by councils and police with consistent positive feedback.
It then feels like such a kick in the teeth that we are forced to close without a single case of Covid-19 being traced back to a betting shop.
While online operators can still serve their customers, where does that leave independent, family-run bookies like ours and many others, on the high street? There are people whose jobs and businesses are on the line.
Betting shops also make a huge financial contribution to horseracing through levy and media rights payments, as well as other sports that are vital threads in the fabric of this country and its` culture.
Despite all of this it feels like the Government is happy to throw us to the wolves without any scientific backing. They need to think again.
Vicky Knight is Machines and Compliance Manager at Jenningsbet