The owner of Ladbrokes and Coral dealt another blow to the beleaguered street owners by refusing to pay rent for more than 3,000 stores.
Sky News has learned that the two bookies, which are part of GVC Holdings, withheld rent payments last week – although they insisted it would close the deficit when “normal” trading conditions resumed.
The move makes the gaming group the latest in a series of large street tenants to cut costs with the closure of their stores during the coronavirus pandemic.
Last month, Betfred, another bookie, asked the owners to rent a vacation.
GVC, which announced the closure of 900 of its UK betting stores last year, has recruited 14,000 people through the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme program.
The company, which has a strong online presence, could offset part of the drop in revenue in its stores by increasing online activity.
However, the absence of live sport during a generally hectic period is likely to result in a significant shortfall.
In a statement, a GVC spokesperson said: “Given the forced closure of all Ladbrokes and Coral betting stores in accordance with government directives, GVC has made the difficult decision to temporarily suspend the payment of rents to its owners.
The decision was made to ensure that many stores are able to reopen after the current crisis is over.
“The group fully intends to make up the deficit once normal trading conditions are restored.
“We have written to our owners to inform them and ask them for their understanding of the decision, which will not only help secure the long-term future of their rental income, but also the jobs of more than 15,000 sales colleagues at detail. “