About 25% of the high-street betting shops in the UK have been scheduled to close, a move that would put 12,000 jobs at risk in the local gambling industry. William Hill has become the latest British bookmaker who has blamed stricter regulation and fixed-odds betting terminals (FOBTs) crackdown for the job cuts.
In April, the UK Government brought the restrictions set to slash the maximum stake allowed on the controversial betting machines, cutting them from £100 per spin to £2 after anti-gambling campaigners, activists and Members of Parliament have been engaged in a lengthy campaign to warn the authorities that FOBTs could lead to gambling addiction.
At the time of the anti-FOBT campaign, the leading bookmakers in the UK, including William Hill, Ladbrokes Coral and Betfred, warned that the regulatory changes could have a negative impact on their performance and announced their intentions to close some of their unprofitable betting shops, and respectively, to dismiss some of their employees. For that, the gambling companies have blamed the massive reduction of the FOBT maximum stake.
However, the former Sports Minister Tracey Crouch, who was an eager campaigner against the machines before resigning from her position due to a planned delay in the new FOBT stake, has disagreed with the companies, saying it was too convenient for them to blame the new policy of the Government for their problems. According to her, the changes made by the authorities by unveiling a stricter regulatory regime should not be pointed as the only thing to blame for the situation.
William Hill Announces Plans to Close 700 High-Street Betting Shops
Yesterday, William Hill became the latest bookmaker in the UK who said it could close 700 of its high-street shops, putting 4,500 jobs in danger.
The owner of Ladbrokes Coral, GVC Holdings, has already revealed that 900 of its shops could stop operation – a move which could end up with the lay-offs of 5,000 employees. Betfred, on its turn, has predicted up to 500 betting outlet closures, which would result in cuts of 2,500 employees.
For the time being, the combined total of 2,100 betting shops represents one-quarter of the 8,423 retail betting shops in the UK, and their closure would potentially affect up to 12,500 employees, which is almost 12% of people who currently work in the UK gambling sector. Still, the impact is significantly smaller than the 4,500 brick-and-mortar betting shops and 21,000 shop losses which were initially predicted by British bookmakers in the companies’ report submitted to the Government in 2018 as part of operators’ efforts to influence the FOBT decision.
According to industry statistics, the high-street betting shops of local gambling firms were in decline before the Government’s crackdown came into effect, mostly due to the fact that an increasing number of gamblers switch to online gambling operators.
Ex-sports Minister Crouch pointed out that the UK gambling industry has been subject to consolidation over the past few years. On the other hand, gambling operators have been redirecting their businesses online not only to save costs but also due to the rising popularity of online gambling among local residents. A recent survey by YouGov has indicated that online gambling is now more popular among British players, with 13% of local people saying they placed a bet online over the past year. In comparison, 11% of the respondents have admitted placing a bet with a retail bookmaker.