Thousands of bookmaking outlets across England and Ireland have reopened for business on the eve of the annual Royal Ascot meeting and two days before the return of Premier League football.
Having been closed since March 20 – and in some cases earlier – due to the COVID-19 outbreak, a return to regular opening hours has been given the green light by the authorities, although several safety protocols will make for an unusual betting experience.
In the intervening months since high-street trading ceased, many customers have turned to online bookmakers to fill the void, but for traditionalists the opportunity to place a bet in a bookie shop during one of the biggest festivals of the year may feel like a small step towards restoring normality.
Boylesports, Paddy Power, Coral, Ladbrokes and Betfred have all opened every one of their shops in England and Republic of Ireland, but shops in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales must remain shut until further notice.
William Hill have taken a slightly more measured approach, opening 734 of their English outlets as phase one of their return-to-business plan. In Ireland, meanwhile, Boylesports confirmed all their outlets have opened as of Monday with extensive safety measures being taken and they ask customers to pay heed to such precautions.
A statement from Boyles said: “On Monday, the 15th of June, all BoyleSports shops around the country [Republic of Ireland] will open their doors to safely welcome back staff and customers following the enforced closure due to the outbreak of COVID-19 with social distancing and safety requirements all in place.
Shops Have Been Deep Cleaned
“All of the retail outlets have gone through a deep clean, including all carpets, tabletops and self-service betting terminals. All of these areas will be thoroughly cleaned on a daily basis with hand sanitisers installed throughout the shop floors.
“Perspex screens have also been installed in key areas for an extra level of safety at the tills and in between all self-service betting terminals to ensure safety. When placing a bet, one customer at a time will be served and we ask all customers to use the yellow stickers on the floor to ensure that all important two metres social distancing.
“There will be signs on the floor to remind punters about social distancing throughout the entire shop. We will be asking customers to use the same pen throughout their visit.
“Customers will need to place bets earlier than ever as queues may take longer but our screens and in-store broadcast will be updated all the time to let customers know when an event is about to start so our advice is to always bet early.
“At busy times, we may have to restrict the number of customers in your local BoyleSports shop at any one time. We would ask our customers to be mindful of each other’s needs and safety.”
Royal Ascot begins behind closed doors on Tuesday and Premier League football is due to resume - also without fans - on Wednesday evening, with Aston Villa hosting Sheffield United in the first fixture of match-week 30.
In the meantime, the Gambling Commission has released a series of guidelines for operators returning to business in land-based settings.