William Hill, one of the largest British bookmakers, has confirmed that it may have to close up to 900 of its high-street betting shops because of the recent crackdown on gambling operations in the country. The company revealed that the stricter regulatory regime on gambling would probably make many of its shops unprofitable, so about 40% of its 2,300 betting outlets in the UK could be shut.
The number of stores to be eventually closed would probably depend on the overall impact which the new regulations would have on customer behaviour and the strategies of its market rivals.
The British bookmaker shared its concern with the tighter rules in the new UK gambling laws which are set to come into force in April 2019 to slash the maximum bet that could be placed on controversial fixed-odds betting terminals (FOBTs) to £2. So far, the machines allowed gamblers to place bets of up to £100 on the outcome of casino-style games such as blackjack and roulette, etc.
Despite a disappointing first half of 2018, the bookmaker said that it still had hope for its betting stores, revealing that some of them would have to be remodelled so that they be focused on other products. The company further revealed that the betting shops closures, if any, would be a lengthy process.
William Hill’s Betting Shops Could Put 4,500 UK Jobs at Risk
A number of gambling operators in the country have protested against the implementation of the new rules, saying that they could seriously hurt their performance, especially the ones that depend much on FOBT revenue.
Now, William Hill was the first to confirm that it was considering closures following a slower first half of 2018. Yesterday, the company published a trading statement, explaining that it may be forced to go ahead with the betting shops closures but still had hopes that could be avoided.
As mentioned above, about 900 loss-making betting shops could be closed by William Hill across the territory of the UK, a move that could put 4,500 jobs at risk. For the time being, the number of the brand’s outlets operating at a loss is still unknown, so it is too early for predictions about future closures to be made. William Hill has also revealed that each betting shop closure could cost the company up to £60,000, and operating profits would probably fall by up to £100 million on an annual basis.
William Hill’s US Unit Also Faces Certain Setbacks
As Casino Guardian has already reported, the British bookmaker could be facing some difficulties, too, due to the recent legal opinion issued by the US Department of Justice.
In 2018, William Hill revealed that its US unit could help it strengthen its market position as one of the largest and most profitable gambling operators. The company decided to take advantage of the US Supreme Court’s ruling which lifted the federal ban on sports betting and became “the early market leader” in the state of New Jersey, as explained by its Chief Executive Officer Philip Bowcock.
With the future of bookmakers remaining rocky in the UK, William Hill was one of the companies which turned eyes to the US gambling market, and more specifically, to the lucrative and profitable sports betting sector. Unfortunately, the US Department of Justice has recently announced a new legal opinion, overruling the previous one from 2011, under which interstate iGaming except for online sports betting is permitted under the Wire Act of 1961. It is yet to be seen whether this change of stance would be a further setback for the British gambling operator.
DOJ has reversed its interpretation of the Wire Act, in a decision that may have profound implications for states and online gaming. We are reviewing closely and will always stand up for the people of West Virginia. Recently, my office helped lead successful challenge to PASPA.
— AG Patrick Morrisey (@MorriseyWV) January 16, 2019
William Hill is still making acquisitions in other markets, such as the recently-announced acquisition deal of the online Swedish gaming operator Mr Green.