GBGC: Betting shops’ post-lockdown recovery

Independents betting shops in UK have recently re-opened.
Independents betting shops in UK have recently re-opened.

Warwick Bartlett, Chief Executive at GBGC, analyses how the shops were performing since being allowed to reopen.

Press Release.- Warwick Bartlett, Chief Executive at GBGC, consulted his old bookmaker friends – one with betting shops in the Northeast (NE) of the UK, the other in the Northwest (NW) – as to how the shops were performing since being allowed to reopen. Both were optimistic.

He explained that the shops were trading ten percent below pre-pandemic levels but SSBTs were ahead of budget and attracting a different type of customer – gamblers who are more interested in exotic bets, in-game play, and matches in lower international and UK divisions that are not displayed on the text screens. Even though the bookmakers must give a double-digit percentage away to the SSBT operator, they are still worth having.

“NE tells me the shops are not opening after 8 pm because there is a scarcity of people about. NW says that some pubs have not re-opened and that affects the betting shops. Even local businesses, such as the local pizzeria, have not re-opened.

“NE told me that some non-gambling businesses that were struggling prior to the pandemic took the ‘bounce back’ loan from the government of £50,000 with no intention of repaying and have subsequently closed”, he commented.

While the independents betting shops re-opened, some of the shops owned by William Hill and Entain did not. So, some independents now have better business in those localities.

The FOBTs have fully recovered to pre-pandemic levels but are still negligible compared with the period before the stake reduction.

Amongst the over fifty years old there is still some reticence about going out and mixing with others. Even though 88% of people are double vaccinated, they just do not want the inconvenience of catching Covid-19 however mild or recoverable from the infection.

Bartlett commented: “My friend from the Northwest tells me that this is shown in the fall in the lotto business, which is down 35 per cent. Lotto customers are older and small staking customers. The break caused by lockdowns may also have broken the habit of having the same lucky numbers every week.

Rising costs are a problem for those that have not been able to fix energy prices. The betting shops these days are fully air-conditioned which runs on expensive electricity, so a cold winter will be more expensive than a gas-fired heating system. But this is compensated for by reduced wage costs thanks to shorter working hours. The reduction in rates (municipal taxes) is also a tremendous help.

The few independents that are left are managing to keep their heads above water, but the large groups such as Entain are closing shops – several hundred since the first lockdown in 2020.”

See also: GBGC: Is the current inflation transitory or not?

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