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William Hill plans 700 major closures putting 4,500 jobs at risk



 William Hill betting shop Image copyright
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Bookmaker William Hill has said it plans to close about 700 betting shops, which could lead to 4,500 jobs.

The firm said the move followed the government's decision in April to reduce the maximum stake on fixed-odds betting terminals to £ 2.

Since then, the company added, it had seen a "significant fall" in gaming machine revenues.

William Hill, which has 2,300 shops and 1

2,500 employees, said the closures could begin before the end of the year.

"The group will look to apply voluntary redundancy and redeployment measures extensively and will provide support to all colleagues throughout the process," its statement said.

We don't know yet. William Hill will not be revealing which stores will close until later this year.

However, staff were told about the decision earlier this week.

  • What are fixed-odds betting terminals? £ 60m to help addicts

These are electronic gaming machines that allow players to bet on the outcome of various simulated games and events, such as roulette, blackjack, bingo and horse races.

Just how addictive are these FOBTs anyway?

Well, some critics have described them as the crack cocaine or gambling. Sources say that before the stake level was cut, a large number of William Hill stores were related to FOBT machines for more than 50% of their turnover. [19659005] This applied lot cularly to inner-city and urban areas, where shops attracted younger customers who only came for the FOBTs.

When the government reduced the stake limit, the Association of British Bookmakers warned that the move would lead to job losses in betting shops.

Image copyright
Getty Images

Image caption

Critics have described FOBTs as the crack cocaine or gambling
                

So this announcement is not really that unexpected? to 900 stores.

"The net impact of the new £ 2 limit will, we estimate … be a reduction in retail operating profit on an annualized basis or approximately £ 70-100m," the company said. Tom Blenkinsop, operations director at betting shop workers' union community, described the bookmaker's announcement as "devastating news for thousands of betting shop workers".

He urged William Hill to engage with the union immediately, so that staff could get additional support and advice during the consultation.

"The government also has a role to play and must look at what support they offer to workers whose jobs are threatened as a consequence 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. "

A spokesperson from the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport said "By cutting the maximum FOBT stake from £ 100 and spin to £ 2, we are helping stop extreme losses from those who least afford them.

" The gambling industry has had a year to make preparations for this change, including to mitigate jobs unloaded. We now expect them to provide the right support to any staff affected by planned shop closures. "

Surely there are two sides to this?

Yes. For campaigners against FOBTs, it's something to be welcomed.

In fact, they've described it as the "demise of death's doorstep betting shops".

Adam Bradford, founder of the Safer Online Gambling Group, said: "These jobs were inevitably going to go and at least a decline in the misery of betting on the High Street.

" Perhaps William Hill can deploy its

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