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England’s Gambling Sector Braced for Another Hit

The news that England has gone into another full lockdown for at least a month came as a blow to many business sectors in the country.

Hospitality was one of the worst-hit by the previous lockdown and was only just beginning to show some signs of recovery as people returned outdoors when this new lockdown was imposed.

The news that all non-essential businesses, which includes pubs, restaurants and entertainment and leisure facilities will have to be closed till 2nd December at least was also disheartening for the various gambling shops, casinos and bingo halls in the country as well.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson stated that there was no alternative to this lockdown if the country wished to avoid a ‘medical disaster’. With case numbers beginning to rise again, not imposing a lockdown would soon lead to a situation with thousands of deaths per day and with the National Health Service being completely overwhelmed due to the rising numbers of serious cases.

Thus, this ‘painful’ lockdown was the only way to ensure that the country could have anything resembling a normal Christmas.

There have been critics of this decision all over, with some experts stating that the lockdown has come too late and it should have been implemented at least a couple of weeks earliest, while others have pointed out that this is a failure of the government’s ‘test and trace’ program, which was supposed to identify those who came in contact with infected people rapidly and get them into isolation, as a way to control the spread of the virus.

Nevertheless, this decision will cause a lot of financial distress yet again, especially in the casino business. While most operators expect losses to pile up again, there is a ray of hope in that this may once again drive people towards online gambling and betting.

Officials from Winz casino commented that the previous lockdown had led to an increase in revenue from online operations, and even though this lockdown is only going to be a month-long, for now, it is still reasonable to expect a similar impact on online gambling once again.

However, most of the large betting conglomerates are expecting heavy losses. GVC, which owns Ladbrokes and thus is the largest land-based gambling operator in the UK, has said that it expects a £27 million hit to profits due to this lockdown, while total losses across its European operations could reach £37 million this month, with France, Germany, Italy, Belgium and the Czech Republic also having imposed national lockdowns in the last few weeks.

This number could rise to £43 million if Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland join this lockdown as well. This is a possibility as well, with Nicola Sturgeon having not ruled out the possibility of a national lockdown in Scotland, while Northern Ireland closed non-essential businesses for four weeks earlier this month.

The government has announced that the furlough scheme will be extended as a result, which will see employees on the scheme receive up to 80% of their salaries for hours not worked.

This will ease some of the burdens on companies, but GVC has said that its projections for losses include this government support, showing just how bleak the environment is for businesses at the moment.

Nevertheless, the need to control the spread of the virus and reduce deaths is the primary aim at the moment, and the betting industry is firmly behind this attempt. The hope is that casinos and betting shops are allowed to reopen once this lockdown is lifted since not doing so would put thousands of jobs at immediate risk.

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