Irish bookmakers demand clarity on reopening orders

Confusion reigns with regards to Irish bookmakers reopening their venues, as the government orders betting shops to remain closed until 29 June. 

This week, a reported 800 Irish betting shops reopened their businesses on Monday 15 June, believing to have complied with the Irish government’s ‘phase two’ Coronavirus national plan. 

However, within 24 hours Irish betting firms were instructed to close their doors as the government stated that betting shops were not included in the statutory arrangement to reopen non-essential Irish retail businesses. 

Bookmakers stated that they had received guidance from the Irish Bookmakers Association (IBA) to begin reopening shops on 8 June, with the majority of businesses choosing to reopen venues this week in time for Royal Ascot. 

With many firms caught off guard, the IBA was forced to call an emergency meeting on Tuesday 16 June confirming the government’s actions.

IBA Chair Sharon Byrne told Irish media that the government had not published any details on its statutory arrangement until last week on the eve of Monday 15 June as retail businesses reopened. 

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

The IBA underlined that it had issued its guidance in accordance with the government’s national plan provisions, which instructed retail shops to begin opening from 8 June under a revised order.  

Byrne continued: “We’re very surprised. We’re not like concerts or theatres. We’re small retail with low numbers of staff. We have very strict procedures in place. There is definite social distancing. We are absolutely compliant.

The Irish government has responded to the criticism, stating that bookmakers should have been made formally aware of ‘schedule 2 arrangements’ signed by National Health Minister Simon Harris on 8 June – in which licensed bookmakers are listed among the businesses and services not permitted to open at this time.

Paddy Power, which reopened the doors to its English and Irish retail estate on Monday, explained that it thought it was acting in accordance with the government advice on the reopening of non-essential shops.

The bookmaker said: “On Monday, we became aware of an Irish Government specification that bookies should open on June 29th. Hence, we took the decision to close our Irish shops until we have the green light to go ahead.

“For the time being, Paddy’s shops in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland will remain closed but we will keep you updated as the situation develops. All open shops are subject to continual review.

“As our shops reopen in England, and later elsewhere, our number one priority is keeping our customers and team members safe. So, all our shops will follow the government guidelines on social distancing.”

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