End-of-year closures planned
UK bookmaker William Hill has announced its plans to close 700 betting shops, which will eliminate 4,500 jobs.
Headquartered in London, William Hill has placed the blame squarely at the government’s door. It claims the decision to cut stakes on fixed-odds betting terminals (FOBTs) left it with no other alternative, reports the Independent.
In a statement, the company explained that:
This follows the government’s decision to reduce the maximum stake on B2 gaming products [FOBTs] to £2 on 1 April 2019. 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.”
It was reported in April that the UK government had lowered the maximum stake on FOBTs from £100 ($125) to £2 ($2.50). A study had shown that gamblers were losing up to £18,000 ($22,500) an hour when the stake was set at £100 a day, money most people can’t afford to lose.
At the time of the report, it was suggested that lowering the stake could lead to job losses in the industry. Prior to the government’s decision, in January William Hill said it may shut down 40% of its betting shops, putting 4,500 jobs at risk.
Undeterred, the government went ahead with the cut, leading the bookmaker to make its most recent statement regarding the job cuts. It’s likely that venues will start to close before the end of the year.
US expansion for William Hill
With 2018 profits down for the bookmaker, it was reported in March of this year that William Hill was looking to the US to boost its earnings. At the time, its business was live in six states, with the company having access to a total of 17 states.
Philip Bowcock, CEO of William Hill, said the bookmaker had “started delivering on our strategy with the expansion of our US business.”
Collective effort to address problem gambling
The closing of hundreds of William Hill betting shops is set to result in fewer places where people can gamble. The news follows the announcement that five of the UK’s biggest bookmakers have offered to commit £100m ($125m) to problem gambling.
The companies concerned are William Hill, Coral Ladbrokes, Bet365, Paddy Power Betfair, and Skybet. By offering to raise their voluntary levy from 0.1% to 1% for five years, they aim to generate £100m that will aid in the treatment of gambling addiction.