GB arcades to remain closed despite LBO reopening

12 June 2020

The UK government’s Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS) has confirmed adult gaming centres (AGCs) will not be permitted to reopen alongside licensed betting shops on 15 June, despite the relaxing of social distancing measures across the country.

From the start of next week, all non-essential retail shops across England will be permitted to reopen, as part of the next phase of the UK’s exit from the lockdown imposed as a result of novel coronavirus (Covid-19).

Only stores classed as essential have been able to remain open since the UK entered lockdown on 23 March. Non-essential stores in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland will need to remain temporarily closed.

Though it has already been announced that licensed betting shops will be able to resume activities from 15 June, DCMS confirmed to UK industry organisation the Gambling Business Group (GBG) that AGCs cannot reopen until at July at the earliest.

“Yesterday evening, an unconfirmed rumour was doing the rounds saying that AGCs and high street bingo were not going to be allowed to open on Monday, but betting shops will,” GBG chief executive Peter Hannibal explained. “I have now had this confirmed by DCMS this morning that this is indeed the case.”

GBG said the DCMS had been pushing for AGCs to be allowed to reopen from next week, but the government was concerned that these facilities would not be able to comply with social distancing guidelines.

New Covid-19 laws state that in order for retail shops to reopen, the customer must be able to enter a premises, make their purchase and exit as soon as they can. In order for certain businesses to be exempt from this rule, the government said that new legislation would need be passed.

As such, Hannibal said it is likely that ADCs and high street bingo venues should be able to reopen from 4 July, when the UK enters the next stage of its lockdown exit strategy and other facilities such as pubs and restaurants can start to reopen.

“We did think this problem was caused by the confusion over the interpretation of the word ‘arcade’, but this is clearly not the case here,” Hannibal said. “The view is that arcade customers need dwell time to partake in the product, which is at odds with the guidelines.

“The DCMS is adamant that there is no way to change Number 10’s position on this so we are now looking at 4 July as the earliest opening date for AGCs and high street bingo.”

This week, a number of major operators announced that they would reopen their betting shops in England from Monday.

GVC said it plans to resume activities across its network of 2,445 Ladbrokes and Coral shops in England, while Flutter Entertainment will reopen all Paddy Power shops in England and 150 locations in the Republic of Ireland.

Earlier this month, the Betting and Gaming Council also said that its land-based casino operator members in England would be ready to reopen from 4 July, after over three months closed due to the pandemic.