Irish Betting Shops Open and Close Amid Industry Confusion

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Bookmakers in Ireland were surprised to understand they were not included in the list of non-essential businesses to re-open during phase two of the government’s Coronavirus national plan. On Monday June 15, around 800 betting shops in the country opened doors, only to close down again less than 24 hours later, being instructed they were not allowed to re-open until June 29.

Phase Two Allows Retailers to Re-Open

The confusion in the industry arose after the June 5 announcement by Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar that retailers could re-open under phase two, and prompted some clarification seeking from the betting shop operators, with the biggest of them, Paddy Power and Ladbrokes, deciding to postpone the re-opening until the situation clears out.

“I can confirm that we are not opening our Ladbrokes shops in the Republic of Ireland at this moment whilst we seek clarity from the Government on the recently updated guidance.”

Spokesperson, Ladbrokes

All betting shops that decided to re-open were made aware of a statutory instrument that prohibited them from doing so until June 29, as it listed “licensed betting shops” as not permitted to open, in the same category as art galleries, ice skating rinks and indoor leisure facilities.

“Under Schedule 2 of the Regulations signed by Minister Harris on 8 June, licensed bookmakers are listed among the businesses and services not permitted to open at this time.”

Spokesperson, Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation

The betting shop operators were relying on guidelines from the Irish Bookmakers Association (IBA) to begin re-opening shops June 8, and the majority of businesses elected to re-open in time for Royal Ascot. The gaffe resulted into an emergency meeting called by the IBA to confirm the government’s actions.

“It only became available to us on Monday. That lists the sectors that are not included in non-essential retail for the purposes of the acceleration of openings.”

Sharon Byrne, Chair, IBA

Notice of the statutory instrument was published in the state’s official gazette only a day after the restrictions were lifted under phase two, as it publishes every Tuesday and Friday. Unfortunately, it turned out to be a day after the confused bookies re-opened their shops, and some of them are now refusing to close down again, risking sanctions.

The Department of Health, responding to a query, pointed out the statutory instrument was published on its website Monday, June 8, but even that date turned out to be late for the IBA and its misleading guidance to the industry.

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