Liverpool bookie forced to close already paid out on LFC title win

The coronavirus pandemic has impacted businesses across Merseyside in different ways, with bars and restaurants closed, staff furloughed and many of us working from home.

As the country remains under lockdown in a bid to 'flatten the curve', live sporting events have also been cancelled.

From football matches to horse racing, the kind of events many of us would normally have a flutter on no longer exist, at least for the time being.

Independent businesses face particularly acute challenges adapting to this strange new world, in which many have already been forced to turn to the government for income support.

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David Pluck, 69, from Wirral, owns Dave Pluck Bookmakers – an independent chain of 36 betting shops across Merseyside and Lancashire.

It's the largest independent bookmaker in the region and it's been running since 1980.

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David has been left with many customers unable to collect their winnings while the shops remain closed, especially since the business has no online presence.

Since he was told to close his doors, David has been inundated with customers emailing and calling about bets they placed prior to the shutdown.

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David told the ECHO: "Back in March we thought we would be asked to close but when the Prime Minister spoke about which businesses would be closed he didn't mention betting shops.

"But that evening we received a government email with the list of all businesses that had to close, which included betting shops.

"Logistically, it was very difficult to close at such short notice especially because the whole industry had told staff not to close just a couple of hours before.

"We can't even open to pay out at the moment. It irritates me that I can't pay out to customers inside the shops. If you can't pay out when someone wins something it just feels wrong."

David opened his first betting shop in Widnes and has built a network across Merseyside and the North West over the last 40 years.

He says the closure of betting shops will have a social cost on some communities because they provide social interaction at a time when many social spaces have disappeared.

David Pluck betting shop,Lord Street.(Pic Andrew Teebay).

He said: "For local neighbourhoods, betting shops are taking the place of the pub and stepped up to provide a social space.

"Our customers won't just miss out on betting but they'll miss the social interaction and chatting with other customers about sport.

"It's not like a coffee shop where you sit on your own table. There's conversation in betting shops about upcoming races and the excitement of the gamble."

With all David's stores closed and practically all sport cancelled for the foreseeable future, it could not be a greater contrast to this time last year when he was taking bets on the Grand National.

David also revealed that he had already paid out on Liverpool to win the league, despite the ongoing uncertainty about how the Premier League season can be concluded.

David added: "Cancelling the Grand National is not without precedent. In 1993 there was no race because of a false start. That year we had to refund all bets that had been made.

"While Grand National being cancelled was a shame for the country, the industry and people, it's not a disaster.

"We've actually paid out on Liverpool to win the league. We were the first to pay out on this.

"No-one knows whether the league will start again but we paid out because it's just so obvious that they were going to win it. That was important to our customers because it's a very symbolic and important event."

David is using the government's furlough scheme to keep his staff on the books and he welcomed the measures which allowed him to keep his 150 staff and ensured the survival of the business.

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He said: "If we hadn't got that help with staff wages, it would have been extraordinarily disruptive. I honestly don't know how we would have coped.

"At the moment, I can't see the shutdown lasting long enough to seriously endanger the business. We've been released from business rates too which has really helped.

"It's times like this that I really wish I had an online presence but everyone is in the same position of complete uncertainty. We just don't know what to expect at the moment."