William Hill Forced to Close 700 Betting Shops
Internationally renowned British bookmaker William Hill recently shocked its punters with a sudden decision to close up 700 of its local betting shops. Now, the bookie has announced that the move was prompted by the government’s strict new rules on fixed odds betting machines (FOBTs), which have forced it to offset around £820 million ($1.02 billion) in losses.
According to a report from Britain’s The Guardian newspaper, the London-based operator says that the closure of its shops could see up to 4,500 people losing their jobs. With that said, the bookmaker has pledged to ‘utilize voluntary redundancies’ and assist redundant employees in finding new positions.
Other Bookies Unveil Similar Plans
The report further detailed that new regulations were put into place in April, slashing the maximum stake that could be accepted by FOBT machines from £100 to a mere £2. This move has reportedly also forced prominent bookmaking conglomerate Ladbrokes Coral Group and Betfred to develop similar estate reduction plans. The bookies have noted that the gambling machines have raked in as much as half of their high street incomes in the past, despite the fact that rival Paddy Power Betfair (now Flutter Entertainment) does not expect to be negatively affected.
It has been noted that GVC Holdings, the owner of Ladbrokes Coral Group, has warned that it might have to close around 900 shops, creating the loss of over 5,000 jobs in light of the new regulations. Betfred, on the other hand, has predicted around 500 shop closures and 2,500 redundancies in its future. The Guardian further detailed that a worst case scenario of 2,100 betting shop closures could represent around one-quarter of the UK’s 8,423 land based sports betting venues, and might prompt the release of 12,500 employees combined.
Former Sports Minister Unmoved
Despite the devastating news, however, the government’s former Sports Minister Tracey Crouch has remained unmoved. She has reportedly told press representatives that it is ‘too simplistic’ to blame the shop closures on a reduction of FOBT stakes alone. The conservative politician resigned from her role last year in protest of a delay in the introduction of the lower stakes, and noted at the time that the popularity of the contentious machines led to a massive over-inflation in the number of bookies on the UK’s high streets.
Speaking to The Guardian, Crouch added that there has been consolidation in the betting industry and a drive from bookmakers to promote less costly iGaming options for some time now. She said that mass betting shop closures were predicted in the recent, industry-funded KPMG report on the matter, stake reductions or none.
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