William Hill to close 700 shops, putting 4,500 jobs at risk

William Hill to close 700 shops, putting 4,500 jobs at risk

Bookmaker blames government decision to slash stakes on fixed-odds betting terminals from £100 per spin to £2

@b_c_chapman commentsClosures are likely to begin before the end of the year, William Hill says (Reuters)

The bookmaker said the move in April to cut stakes on FOBTs from £100 per spin to £2 led to the announcement to shut hundreds of units.

The company said it would consult with staff and seek to offer voluntary redundancy or redeployment to other parts of the business where possible.

Closures are likely to begin before the end of the year, William Hill said in a statement on Thursday.

The group said: “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.”

In January, William Hill also warned of losses in the US as it expands rapidly to take advantage of new rules allowing sports betting.

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British bookmakers have been looking to increase their focus on online gambling following the crackdown on FOBTs which had brought in around £1.8bn in 2018.

However, they face stiffer regulation in the online sector as well, with MPs and campaigners training their sights on irresponsible practices such as handing out bonuses to gamblers who have lost tens of thousands of pounds.

This week, five of the UK’s biggest gambling companies committed to pay around £60m a year towards treatment for problem gamblers by 2023.

UK gambling firms made £14.5bn in profits last year but currently pay less than 0.1 per cent towards treatment of addicts.

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