Entain has written to landlords requesting rent cuts ahead of the reopening of the UK’s retail betting sector, which has faced significant financial constraints over the past year.
The group currently operates over 3,000 licenced betting shops in over 30 different countries, but the request has only been extended to landlords with leases due to expire within the next two years.
In the letter, the operator outlined that a reduction in rent would reduce overall operational costs and ensure that its shops remained ‘competitive and viable,’ in turn securing the employment of thousands of retail workers.
Jette Nygaard-Andersen, the recently appointed CEO of Entain, had previously pledged that the company would not close any more retail venues, despite the ongoing financial impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Although retail betting has suffered from the monetary impacts of the virus – primarily due to temporary shop closures throughout 2020 and 2021 – the sector has benefited from government support, along with other industries.
Under the current roadmap for existing the UK’s third national lockdown, high street betting shops will reopen on 12 April, followed by casinos on 17 May.
Although the Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) has called for certainty on the schedule for reopening, the standards agency has welcomed the government’s decision to extend rates relief on the retail and hospitality sectors, praising the move as helping operators maintain more than 44,000 people in employment.
Additionally, all non-essential services will receive direct cash payments of £6,000 per site in ‘recovery grants,’ a policy which has been met with enthusiasm from the BGC.
However, calls from the gambling industry for a delay to the highly anticipated Grand National – widely regarded as the busiest day of the year for bookmakers, with many casual bettors placing their only wager of the year – to coincide with the reopening of retail betting shops was not recognised.
Michael Dugher, Chief Executive of the BGC, has also criticised the government’s of Scotland and Wales for inaction on the financial situation faced by the gambling industry.
“The UK Government’s backing for business stands in stark contrast to the refusal of the devolved administrations in Wales and Scotland to offer business rates relief to our members,” he stated earlier this month.
“This has sadly had a disproportionate impact on our smaller independent businesses, many of them family run, which have faced making staff redundant and an uncertain future.”