the News desk.
|A quarter of UK betting shops could close, with 12,000
jobs at risk
| William Hill
may shut 700 shops as it looks to offset £820m loss from FOBT
A quarter of betting shops on UK
high streets have been slated for closure, putting 12,000 jobs at risk, with
William Hill the latest bookmaker to blame job cuts on stricter regulation of
fixed-odds betting terminals (FOBTs).
Restrictions cutting the maximum
stake on the controversial betting machines from £100 per spin to
£2 came into force in April after a lengthy campaign by activists and
MPs, who linked the controversial machines to gambling addiction.
Britains leading bookmakers, including Ladbrokes Coral, William
Hill and Betfred, have since announced plans to shed jobs, blaming the loss of
a product that contributed about half of their annual high-street income.
William Hill said on Thursday that it could close 700 high-street
shops, putting 4,500 jobs under threat.
The Ladbrokes owner, GVC, has
already said 900 shops could close, threatening 5,000 staff, while Betfred has
predicted up to 500 closures, which would reduce its headcount by 2,500.
The combined total of 2,100 shops represents 25% of the UKs 8,423
bricks-and-mortar bookmakers, potentially affecting up to 12,500 staff, or
nearly 12% of people employed in the UK gambling industry.
impact is significantly less than the 4,500 closures and 21,000 job losses that
bookmakers predicted in a widely discredited report submitted to the government
last year in an effort to influence the FOBT decision.
the former sports minister who pioneered curbs on FOBTs before resigning over a
planned delay in their implementation, said it was too convenient for
bookmakers to blame the policy.
While I am sorry to hear of job
losses, the truth is there was huge overinflation in the number of bookmakers
on our high streets because of the profit-making capacity of FOBTs.
The closures shouldnt only be blamed on stake changes
though that would be too simplistic.
There has been
consolidation within the industry and a drive from the bookmakers themselves to
less costly online gambling for some time now and mass closures were predicted
in the industry-funded KPMG report, even without stake reductions.
Industry statistics indicate that gambling firms high-street
betting empires were in decline before the stake cut, as more and more punters
switch to online gambling brands, often owned by the same businesses.
Income from racecourse and bookmaker betting fell from £3.3bn in
April 2015 to £3.2bn in September 2018, according to regulator the
Gambling Commission. During the same period, online betting income jumped from
£4.2bn to £5.6bn.
A survey by YouGov indicates that online
gambling is now more popular, with 13% of people admitting to placing a bet on
the internet in the past year, compared to 11% at an event or in a
While GVC, William Hill and Betfred have all
said they expect shop closures and job losses as a result of the FOBT
restrictions, Paddy Power Betfair, which recently changed its name to Flutter
Entertainment, has said it expects to see no impact.
operations director at the betting shop workers union, Community, called on
William Hill to do everything it could to minimise redundancies and find
alternatives where possible.
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, he said.
Betting shops provide an important source of local employment and
many of our members have served the company loyally for years. Workers
dont 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
William Hill said it would do whatever it could to cut
jobs through voluntary redundancies and find alternative roles for affected
FOBTs were branded a social blight by the government
last year after a lengthy review, during which bookmakers vehemently resisted
any cut in FOBT stakes, only to see them reduced to the lowest possible level
The low stake effectively rendered the machines, which
account for more than half of high street bookmakers revenues,
Gambling firms have since been at pains to stave off
similar curbs on their fast-growing online businesses, offering to impose a
voluntary ban on advertising during TV sports and increase their
to gambling charities to £100m.