William Hill's closure plans could put 4,500 jobs in jeopardy
Betting giant William Hill has announced plans to close around 700 of its individual betting shops which could cost around 4,500 jobs.
The bookmaker’s move comes after it declared a “significant fall” in revenue, coinciding with government legislation which reduced the maximum stake on fixed-odds betting terminals from £100 to £2.
The government’s policy came into force in April 2019 amid concern that players were able to gamble large amounts of money in short timeframes and that frequent use of fixed-odds terminals was hiking up gambling addiction, particularly among young people.
William Hill currently employs 12,500 people and the closures of what could equate to roughly 30 per cent of its 2,300 UK stores may begin before the year’s end.
The stores earmarked for closure have not yet been publicly revealed but staff have been informed and further announcements will be made later in the year.
William Hill said in a statement that it will: “look to apply voluntary redundancy and redeployment measures extensively and will be providing support to all colleagues throughout the process”.
Tom Blenkinsop, the operations director at Community, a workers’ union for betting shop staff, called the announcement “devastating”, and called on William Hill to liaise with the union to help provide necessary support to affected workers during the process.
Blenkinsop also feels that the government must take responsibility for the outcome of law changes.
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 a consequence of changes to the law.
“Betting shops provide an important source of local employment and many of our members have served the company [William Hill] 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”.
Prior to the cap coming into force, William Hill revealed in its March annual report that the legislation would have a “significant negative impact” on company revenue and may force up to 900 shops to close.
The report read: “The net impact of the new £2 limit will, we estimate…be a reduction in retail’s operating profit on an annualised basis of approximately £70-100 million”.
According to the BBC, other sources at the time claimed that over 50 per cent of shop turnover in several William Hill units was accounted for by fixed-odds betting terminals, particularly those in urban and inner-city areas and that implementing a cap would have an adverse effect.
The Association of British Bookmakers also warned pre-cap that government intervention on fixed-odds betting terminals could lead to reduced revenues and a consequential impact on jobs.