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Michael Dugher

As the lockdown eases, betting shops are ready to re-open safely from June 15

Monday 15 June is a significant day for the country. After months of being closed, the UK Government announced that many ‘non-essential retail’ shops in England can now re-open following the Covid-19 lockdown. This will include many betting shops on our high streets.

Since shutting their doors in March, they have played their part in the national effort to combat the spread of the virus. But with lockdown thankfully easing, the time is right for them to get back to business – and, most importantly, to do it safely.

And with the public finances under severe pressure due to the impact of covid and the need to support jobs and kickstart economic growth, it’s worth remembering that the UK’s 7,000 betting shops employ nearly 40,000 people, while BGC members contribute £3.2bn a year in tax to the Treasury.

Writing for the BGC website a few days ago, Jenningsbet managing director Greg Knight set out in detail all the steps that they have taken to prepare for the big day. These include the introduction of perspex screens, protective clothing, hand sanitisers, new shift patterns for staff and “social distance ambassadors” to make sure the Government’s coronavirus guidelines are followed.

“As a business, even in these difficult circumstances, we have a responsibility and a duty of care both to our customers and our staff,” Greg wrote. “We think that we have prepared our shops as best as we can to minimise risk and create a safe environment to work in and enjoy a bet.”

I saw for myself all the hard work that’s gone in to making our members’ shops Covid-secure when I visited the Coral branch in Tottenham Court Road last week. New ‘sneeze screens’ have been installed at the till to protect staff and customers, and markings and signs have been put up making clear the two-metre social distancing rules.

Paddy Power have produced a really good graphic making it clear to punters what’s been done to keep them safe – and what is expected of them in return. Check it out HERE.

Meanwhile, as an added safety measure, William Hill are bringing in ‘call-over’ betting, where the customer tells the person behind the counter their selection, rather than having to fill in the traditional bookies’ line and hand it over. Punters are also being encouraged to use contactless payments, rather than cash, wherever possible.

It’s clear that our members have gone above and beyond what’s been asked of them to provide the safest possible environment for their employees and customers.

With horseracing already back for a couple of weeks, and the return of the Premier League and Championship football just around the corner, there’s no better time for betting shops to get back to business.

For many, the local bookies’ is at the heart of their community – creating good jobs, helping the economy and providing an opportunity for a flutter for the millions of people in Britain who like a bet.

And with doors now open, for the BGC, as the new standards body for the betting industry, our work to ensure higher standards on safer gambling will go on.

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