Betting Branches to open soon?

Betting branches across South Africa have been closed due to government regulation imposed during the Coronavirus pandemic. Hundreds of sports betting branches across the country have been closed for months, forcing punters to either bet online or not bet at all. One might not think it, but retail sports betting shops, casino and slots venues are still incredibly popular with many South Africans.

The easing of the lockdown restrictions from level 4 to 3 gave many punters hope that these branches would open soon, but unfortunately it was not to be. So when will you be able to visit your favourite betting branch? Well it’s rather complicated, but hopefully we’ll see them open their doors by the end of June 2020, or when lockdown level 2 is implemented.

Why are the betting branches still closed?

Most retail sports betting branches fall under what the government classes as “Entertainment” or “Casinos”, meaning they are unable to open until the lockdown level allows such activities.

Kubayi-Ngubane said that following economic activities remain prohibited:

  • Conferences, events, and entertainment activities (except venues that are being used in the fight against the pandemic, eg. distribution points of social relief measures);
  • Casinos

There are also other factors at play that one needs to consider before reopening, for example if a branch were to open they would then be liable to pay their landlords rent. During the pandemic many landlords gave heavy deduction on rent as the businesses were closed and not earning an income. This would potentially fall away should they open again, meaning that they might be liable for full rental even if the branch is only receiving a fraction of the foot traffic it usually receives.

When will branches open for betting?

Local betting companies have been lobbying government to have their venues classed as retail instead of entertainment, this would allow them to open their doors to customers. Various bookmaker associations have offered up solutions like removing TV’s, chairs and other things that might encourage people gathering, all to help keep their customers safe. However this hasn’t had much success, and they are now exploring other options, including the recent declaration that the lockdown was unconstitutional.

In a ruling on Tuesday (2 June), the Gauteng High court declared that the country’s alert level 3 and alert level 4 lockdown regulations are invalid and unconstitutional, which potentially opens up the possiblity of branches opening on the 16/17th of June. Just in time for the return of the UK49’s and the English Premier League. This is a developing situation as we’ve yet to hear the governments response and if they will follow the judgement.

Should the judgement be overturned or the implementation of the ruling delayed then it’s likely we’ll only see branches open at the end of June or early July, once the country shifts to lockdown level 2 and venues classed as entertainment can open. A strong argument could be made that betting branches should be allowed to open as lottery sales are currently allowed at major retailers, but not at betting shops. Which is puzzling as there really is very little difference in going to Checkers to buy a lotto ticket or popping down to your local betting branch to strike a bet.

In the meantime we can only hope that the High Court’s ruling is followed and we can visit our favourite betting stores around the 16/17th of June. Until then we suggest you open an online account with your favourite bookmaker to help support them during these tough times!

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