Irish Bookmakers Stay Closed

The confused situation surrounding the status of retail bookmaking in the Republic of Ireland has been partially resolved through a joint decision by operators in that country.

On Thursday, the nation’s bookmakers in Ireland showed unity in agreeing to follow government guidelines that will see retail betting shop doors remain closed. The agreement was revealed by the chairperson of the Irish Bookmakers Association (IBA), Sharon Byrne.

After a confusing start to the week, in which Irish betting operators were initially under the impression that they would be able to reopen their high street businesses from Monday, two of the country’s leading operators, Paddy Power and Ladbrokes, reached a new understanding of the situation and followed up by closing their shops from Tuesday.

But that decision led to widespread confusion among bookmakers and punters, which led to Byrne calling an emergency meeting of all of the IBA’s members. The details of that meeting have not been disclosed, but it was reported that operators accepted that betting shops would have to remain closed until the government introduced new instructions.

There was, however, some dissension, as it was reported that a few operators were planning to open their doors and offer a reducted betting service. Barney O’Hare’s Bar One Racing bookmaking firm opened some of their shops on Wednesday, though only to arrange the collection of winnings. But by Thursday, the company had followed the rest of the industry in Ireland and close their doors.

Speaking about the overall situation, Byrne said that Bar One Racing had been trying to look after their customers, but that the overall situation across the industry was stable:

“All IBA members have closed their shops. There are possibly a couple of operators, who aren’t members of our association, who have remained open but hopefully they will close now too.”

It is estimated that there are around 5,000 betting shop staff working in more than 800 retail betting outlets in Ireland, and the confusion of the past week has led to considerable turmoil, which Byrne acknowledged. She said that she was aware of the problems, and that although she would not pre-empt the next stage of government guidance, she was still hopeful that betting shops in Ireland may be able to open again on June 29.

In comments to the Irish media, Byrne said that there were a number of issues involving staff and customers. She highlighted the fact that many staff had been brought back in good faith, having been on wage subsidy schemes. She acknowledged that the situation was unfortunate but expressed a hope that the government would act to allow reopening in the short term.  

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