With racing to continue and betting shops closing, online betting is expected to surge

Interestingly enough, greyhound racing and horseracing have somehow managed to escape latest government measures against the current health situation in the country, as professional sports have been excluded from Level 5 restrictions which have started on Monday. Greyhound racing and horseracing are classified as professional and elite sports, meaning they will be able to continue operating, with GAA inter-county championship included and fixtures for the latter already confirmed for 2020 season, despite challenges ahead.

Unlike greyhound and horseracing, some businesses were not as lucky and latest restrictions resulted in closing some doors for six weeks, until the end of November this year. One of these businesses are betting shops, regarded as “non-essential retail”, 800 of them to be more precise, across Ireland. Obviously, owners are devastated, considering they already spent millions of euro in ensuring safe betting environment for their customers, and now they are forced to close down. However, not all is lost.

Racing is a 2 billion euro industry, government can’t ignore it

Government couldn’t ignore the fact that racing in Ireland is a 2 billion euro industry, which leaves it far behind other recreational sports. However, betting shop owners are not happy with the latest Government decisions to close them down. Spokesperson of BoyleSports said their shops in Cavan, Donegal and Monaghan are already closed, sending 1,500 employees home, right after investing over one million euro in making the shops follow latest health guidelines like screens and hand-sanitisation stations.

But this is not the first time we’re feeling consequences from Government decisions. We already had something similar earlier this year, and many businesses have managed to do just fine thanks to their ingenuity. For example, PaddyPower started offering a variety of non-sports related betting options once sports events were cancelled, like political betting where one could bet on election outcomes. Other bookmakers even offered weather betting, where one could place money on weather, however odd that may sound.

Those who adapt will survive, time to make some changes

Restaurants and food/drink related businesses are only able to serve takeaways. Similarly, betting shops will be forced to offer their services online if they want to keep the business going. Online casino and online sports betting industry has already seen their growth this year worldwide, so there is no reason for this trend to stop now, especially considering how professional sports leagues will keep on going, so there will be plenty of events to place the money on.

Instead of complaining, bookmakers should see this as an opportunity to develop their online business. Their survival will depend on how quickly they can adapt and sophisticate their online offerings. Sports betting is certainly something that can be executed in an online environment, with similar user experience as in land-based shops. Unfortunately, some bookmakers have invested too little in their online services, relying on physical shops too much for too long, throwing their potential in a situation like this one. Such bookmakers will be challenged and some of them perhaps even forced to close shut down permanently. But perhaps this is a good thing after all. Perhaps businesses will start investing more in their online presence, diversifying their offering and thus strengthening their position on the market, as well as offering new values for customers. In our book, that is a win-win situation for everyone.

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