William Hill has announced that it will be closing around 700 of its betting shops in the UK after the government imposed restrictions on the maximum bet allowed on fixed-odds betting terminals (FOBTs).
The UK government restricted the maximum stake to two pounds on FOBTs in April after complaints that the machines were allowing gamblers to wager up to £100 frequently. The machines were also described as being highly addictive.
In response, Wiliam Hill warned last year that the cut would cause 900 betting shops to shut. On Thursday, however, the firm announced that it will be closing 700 stores due to a fall in revenue. The bookmaker revealed that it would be putting 4,500 jobs at risk and that closures would begin before 2020.
Meanwhile, Ladbrokes Coral announced that it could close 900 shops, threatening up to 5,000 employees, and Betfred suggested it may close up to 500 shops, effectively reducing employee numbers by around 2,500.
According to The Guardian, the closures could affect up to 12,500 staff, equal to around 12% of people currently employed in the gambling industry.
Tom Blenkinsop, the Operation Director of betting shops workers union Community, urged William Hill to minimise the shop closures. He said: “The government also has a role to play and must look at what support they can offer to workers whose jobs are threatened as consequences of changes to the law around FOBTs.
“Betting shops provide an important source of local employment and many of our members have served the company loyally for years. 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.”