In the United Kingdom, giant bookmaker William Hill has reportedly announced plans to close up to 700 shops as it looks to offset some £820 million ($1.02 billion) it is due to lose as a result of the nation’s stricter rules on fixed-odds betting terminals (FOBTs).
According to a Thursday report from The Guardian newspaper, the London-headquartered operator revealed that the move could see as many as 4,500 people lose their jobs although it has promised to utilize voluntary redundancies and help released employees to find alternative positions.
The newspaper reported that new regulations came into force in April that slashed the maximum FOBT stake from £100 ($125) per spin down to just £2 ($2.50) and that this had already led prominent operators Ladbrokes Coral Group and Betfred to unveil similar estate reduction plans. The pair purportedly explained that the video slot-like machines had been responsible for up to half of their high street incomes although rival PaddyPower Betfair, which recently changed its name to Flutter Entertainment, predicted that it would not be affected.
The Guardian reported that the firm behind Ladbrokes Coral Group, GVC Holdings, warned that it may now be forced to shutter around 900 shops with the loss of approximately 5,000 jobs while Betfred predicted some 500 such closures for about 2,500 redundancies. The newspaper also detailed that the worst-case-scenario closure of 2,100 land-based betting outlets would represent roughly a quarter of the United Kingdom’s 8,423 brick-and-mortar sportsbetting venues and possibly lead to the release of up to 12,500 staff.
However, the government’s former Sports Minister, Tracey Crouch, was unrepentant and reportedly told the newspaper that it was ‘too simplistic’ to blame the closures such as those announced by William Hill simply on the reduction in FOBTs stakes. The Conservative politician resigned her post last year in protest at a delay in the introduction of the lowered stakes and purportedly proclaimed that the profitability of the controversial machines had led to a ‘huge over-inflation in the number of bookmakers on our high streets’.
Crouch reportedly told The Guardian…
“There has been consolidation within the industry and a drive from the bookmakers themselves to less costly online gambling for some time now and mass closures were predicted in the industry-funded KPMG report, even without stake reductions.”