William Hill has entered into a consultation process over plans to close around 700 of its shops across the UK following the country’s decision to mandate a £2 maximum bet on Fixed Odds Betting Terminals (FOBTs), a stake significantly lower than the previous maximum bet of £100.
This decision could lead to putting 12,000 jobs at risk, with 4,500 of them coming from the 700 William Hill shops that are up for closure. The “significant fall” in gaming machine revenues will eventually lead to an overall quarter of betting shops on UK high streets to shut down.
Although the closure is still subject to the outcome of the consultation process, the 4,500 shops are set to begin closing down before the end of the year. The bookmaker and the wider industry have threatened such a move before a crackdown on controversial fixed-odds betting terminal (FOBT) stakes was implemented on 1 April.
William Hill said in a statement: “Since then the company has seen a significant fall in gaming machine revenues, in line with the guidance given when the government’s decision was announced in May 2018.
” They have repeatedly warned that many stores would not be viable when FOBT maximum stakes were cut to £2 from £100, but the government came under pressure to cut down the number of the so-called problem gamblers. FOBT machines were repeatedly described by critics as the “crack cocaine” of gambling and have been blamed for destroying lives and families.
At the same time, the industry was being accused of falling short in its obligations to customers. William Hill announced the possible job losses just days after it joined four other major betting companies in agreeing a package of measures to bolster funding and support for addicts.
William Hill was able to predict the outcome back when the government first announced the plans to lower the stake and reported that as many as 900 unprofitable shops could close as a result of the move.
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