William Hill to close 700 betting shops
William Hill blamed the move on the government’s decision to reduce the maximum stake on fixed odds betting terminals (FOBTs) to £2 on 1 April 2019. Since then William Hill has seen a ‘significant’ fall in gaming machine revenues. Before the rule change punters could stake up to £100 a go.
The potential 700 shop closures mean 4,500 staff could lose their jobs before the end of the year. William Hill said it will look to apply voluntary redundancy and redeployment measures and will be providing support workers throughout the process.
William Hill warned of job losses in its annual report in March which forecasted that the government’s decision on FOBTs would reduce betting shop sales by up to £100m a year and could lead to the closure of up to 900 stores.
The maximum stake reduction came after a campaign by activists and MPs, who linked the controversial machines to gambling addiction. The machines were thought to contribute about half of bookmaker’s annul high street income.
William Hill isn’t the only bookmaker to suffer since the new rules were introduced. Ladbrokes Coral and Betfred have both also announced plans to shed jobs this year.
Tom Blenkinsop, operations director at betting shop workers union Community, said: “This is devastating news for thousands of betting shop workers. We will be advising our members through the consultation process. William Hill should immediately engage with Community, so that their staff get additional support and advice during the consultation and all measures can be taken to minimise redundancies and find alternatives.
“The government also has a role to play and must look at what support they can offer to workers whose jobs are threatened as a consequence of changes to the law around FOBTs.”