The Methodist Church has expressed its sadness as high street betting shops prepare to open on Good Friday for the first time this month, ending a ban that has been in place since betting shops were first allowed in the 1960s.
Thousands of bookies are expected to open their doors to take bets on Good Friday, March 21, under the Government's new gambling rules, according to The Daily Mail. Good Friday is one of the most important days in the Christian calendar and is marked by millions of believers in the United Kingdom and around the world as the day when Jesus Christ was crucified at Calvary.
The Methodist Church, which has long warned of the social dangers of gambling, is urging the public to head to church instead of the betting shop.
"We fail to see the real benefits of bookmakers opening on what is a public holiday and a special-day for many," Methodist church spokesman Ken Howcroft told the newspaper.
"We hope that on Good Friday Methodists and others will take some time out from their everyday activities to reflect on the significance of Jesus' crucifixion."
One of the largest betting chains, William Hill, said it would respect the religious beliefs of its staff.
"Anybody is fully entitled to attend a religious service or place a bet on Good Friday – or indeed do both," it said. "I daresay if staff had a religious objection we would be sensitive to that, but we already open on Sundays so I would think it's unlikely it would crop up."
Another large betting chain, Coral, said: "If staff have religious objections those will be honored – those who work will get a day off in lieu."