Written by: Keith Tully
Reviewed: Wednesday 3rd July, 2019
The bookmaker William Hill has revealed that it is consulting on plans to close 700 of its UK outlets and shed as many as 4,500 jobs in the coming months.
Expectations are that the shop closures will begin before the end of 2019.
The company has blamed the planned closures on a recent decision by the government to reduce the maximum stakes that gamblers can place on fixed odds betting terminals (FOBTs) to £2, which it describes as having resulted in a “significant fall in gaming machine revenues”.
Rules limiting consumers to £2 per bet on FOBTs came into effect in April this year after disputes about the timing of their introduction having unfolded within government and across the House of Commons last year.
Bookmakers had argued that they needed time to adjust their businesses in advance of the new rules on FOBTs being introduced and the chancellor Philip Hammond decided they could have until October 2019.
However, sports minister Tracey Crouch resigned over the matter and pressure from other MPs and campaign groups helped to change the chancellor’s mind such that he introduced the £2 betting terminal limits from April.
This decision is understood to have cost bookmakers with outlets across the country like William Hill millions of pounds in revenues.
William Hill has said that its loss of revenues since the legislation was introduced in April has been in line with its expectations and with the estimates it submitted to the government while the issue was being discussed.
Prior to the rule changes that mean FOBTs can only be bet on at a rate of £2 per game, it was possible for punters to place bets worth £100 at a time.
Around 4,500 people are in danger of losing their jobs as William Hill significantly scales back its high street presence, with a “large number of redundancies” now revealed to be on the company’s agenda.
Voluntary redundancy offers are to be made, while some staff are likely to be redeployed elsewhere within William Hill’s businesses.