The owner of Ladbrokes and Coral has dealt a fresh blow to beleaguered high street landlords by refusing to pay rent on more than 3,000 shops.
Sky News has learnt that the two bookmakers, which are part of GVC Holdings, withheld rent payments last week – although it insisted that it would make up the deficit when “normal” trading conditions resume.
The move makes the gambling group the latest in a string of big high street tenants to cut costs with their store estates closed during the coronavirus pandemic.
Betfred, another bookmaker, asked landlords for a rent holiday last month.
GVC, which announced last year that it would close 900 of its UK betting shops, has furloughed 14,000 staff under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme.
The company, which has a large online presence, may offset part of the decline in revenues at its shops through increased online activity.
However, the absence of live sport during a usually frenetic period is likely to result in a large shortfall in profits.
In a statement, a GVC spokeswoman said: “In view of the enforced closure of all Ladbrokes and Coral betting shops in line with government guidelines, GVC has taken the difficult decision to temporary place on hold rental payments to its landlords.
The decision has been taken in order to ensure as many shops are in a position to reopen once the current crisis abates.
“The group fully intends to make-up the shortfall once normal trading conditions resume.
“We have written to our landlords to inform them and request their understanding of the decision, which will not only help to secure the long-term future of their rental incomes but also the jobs of over 15,000 retail colleagues.”