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2019 Betting Shop Manager of the Year winner Sandra Gilmartin has not had the reigning year we would have hoped for, however, we look forward to a time in the (hopefully not too distant) future when Sandra will be able to have her once in a lifetime trip to Hong Kong courtesy of the Hong Kong Jockey Club.

We recently caught up with Sandra to find out what life has been like in her betting shop in Coventry for her and her team during these challenging times.

What is it like now as a betting shop manager during the Covid-19 pandemic?
I can’t say too much has changed other than the added extra of working within Covid safety measures.

As a shop manager, it is always about listening to our customers as we have a duty of care to them, listening is now more important than ever before. My role as a betting shop manager is to be aware, and I am very conscious that mental health issues and anxiety has soared this year, so because of that myself and my team need to be mindful of this and to remember that if our customers are having financial difficulties, gambling is never the answer.

What safety measures do you have in your betting shop?
We are asking everyone to DO YOUR BIT as our number one priority is keeping our customers and my shop team safe. This includes customers and staff wearing face masks whilst in the shop to protect each other. Upon entering our customers will see our hand sanitisers and signage to encourage their use especially before and after using the machine.

We have the NHS Track and Trace QR code posters available for our customers on entry and throughout the store and for those not comfortable using the Track and Trace we also have an alternative for our customers to register their shop visits as per government guidelines.

We have protective screens in place between betting machines to provide social distancing and we manage the number of people we have in the shop at any one time.

Our customers will notice floor markings in the store to assist them with queuing safely, and we also encourage contactless to keep social distancing in place as per the latest guidelines.

The team and I clean the most common touchable surfaces multiple times daily, such as door handles, tables, keyboards, toilet flush handles, etc. to help prevent the spread of Covid-19 in my shop.

How has the customer experience changed since reopening post lockdown?
There have been many changes that my customers have had to get used to. Social distancing now means customers cannot always come to the counter at the start of a race, however, they have adapted wonderfully. Unfortunately for the moment, they can no longer enjoy their complimentary tea or coffee and with the prospective screens in place, the general chatter about the recent football results or the new FOTB game between customers is a little more difficult. But they manage and without complaint.

Our customers are still welcome to sit and enjoy the live sports/racing, but if needed they are gently reminded that they need to adhere to the social distancing and to continue wearing their face mask to protect others around them.

The experience for our customers is certainly a little different but having chatted with them about the measures in place, they know we are in this together and it is about adapting together to tackle Covid-19. I believe they feel looked after and recognise we are all finding ways to enjoy this leisure past-time together in a safe, compliant, and enjoyable way.

Has customer behaviour changed since the reopening?
During the first few visits post lockdown, there was a little apprehension and uncertainty displayed by our customers. They were unsure of what to expect, it all appeared to be a little disconcerting for them.

However, that is where my shop team and I were responsible for putting our customers at ease.

It was important that we remain as transparent as possible, reassuring our customers both verbally and demonstratively that we shall keep our shop clean and safe to the absolute best of our abilities.

It is up to me and my shop team to reassure our customers that their safety and wellbeing is our top priority. Our objective remains the creation of a positive and fun atmosphere, albeit in unprecedented times. I have worked in this industry for a number of years and its one that continually evolves and changes, and we in turn need to be ready to adapt to those changes, and our current climate is no different in that respect.

We as a team very quickly regained the positive atmosphere that we had pre-lockdown. Although over the last few months since reopening, washing our hands and wearing facemasks have become part of our normal routine for both customers and staff, we still have not lost the fun factor.  My shop is still the ‘fun hub’ it used to be, the bad jokes and the banter continues, even if socially distanced throughout.