William Hill puts 4,500 jobs at risk with plans to shut 700 betting shops
The group blamed the move on the Government’s decision to slash the maximum stake on fixed-odds betting terminals.
Around 4,500 jobs are at risk at bookmaker William Hill after it announced plans to axe 700 betting shops across the UK.
The group warned a “large number of redundancies” are expected and it has begun consultation meetings with the 4,500 affected staff.
Shop closures are due to start by the end of the year.
William Hill blamed the closures on the Government’s decision to slash the maximum stake on controversial fixed-odds betting terminals (FOTBs) to £2 in April, which has hammered bookmakers’ sales.
On its store closure plans, the group said: “This follows the Government’s decision to reduce the maximum stake on B2 gaming products 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.”
The industry’s trade union blasted the closures as “devastating news” for workers and called on the Government to offer support.
The closures will see William Hill’s 2,282 shop estate shrink by close to a third.
It said it was too early to confirm which shops will shut until consultations are complete.
Workers don’t deserve to be the victims of the changes happening in the industry as a result of either government policy or the significant shift towards online gambling Tom Blenkinsop, Community union
William Hill – which has 16,000 employees across the group – said it would look to offer voluntary redundancy and redeploy affected staff “extensively” where possible, “providing support to all colleagues throughout the process”.
The news comes after the bookie’s betting shops have been suffering following the FOBT’s stake move, as well as challenging high street conditions.
William Hill had previously warned it may have to axe up to 900 shops as a result of the FOTB crackdown.
GVC, which owns Ladbrokes Coral, has previously said up to 1,000 of its bookies were at risk of closure due to the clampdown.
Tom Blenkinsop, operations director at the Community union, said: “This is devastating news for thousands of betting shop workers.”
He added: “The Government also has a role to play and must look at what support they can offer to workers whose jobs are threatened as a consequence of changes to the law around FOBTs”
“Workers don’t deserve to be the victims of the changes happening in the industry as a result of either government policy or the significant shift towards online gambling,” he said.
William Hill revealed in March it had swung to a pre-tax loss of £721.9 million in 2018 compared with a profit of £146.5 million the prior year after it took an £882.8 million hit on its retail operations in light of the FOTB stake reduction.
In its most recent trading update since the stake cut came into effect, William Hill said gaming net revenues plunged 15% in the 17 weeks to April 30, with wider retail turnover down 7%.