William Hill plans to close around 700 ships which could affect up to 4,500 jobs in the UK, and several other betting sites could be following.
The move comes after the cut in the maximum stake on Fixed Odds Betting Terminals (FOBTs) from £100 to £2 came into force on April 1st.
In William Hill’s annual report, published in March,they said the government’s decision resulted in an £882.8m impairment to the Retail business and could lead to the closure of up to 900 stores.
The closures could begin before the end of the year and a statement from William Hill said:
“The group will look to apply voluntary redundancy and redeployment measures extensively and will be providing support to all colleagues throughout the process”
FOBTs were providing an estimated £1.7bn of annual revenue for bookmakers with gamblers able to lose up to £100 every 20 seconds under the old regulation according to the Gambling Commission.
More bookmakers are expected to close shops, with an estimated 2,300 potentially closing due to the regulation change.
Bookmaker Ladbrokes Coral Group is potentially shutting down up to 1000 of its 3,500 shops over the next two years, while Betfred have said up to 500 of their shops could close.
But, the move is a step in the right direction to curb the addictive gambling machines impact. Theoretically, gamblers could lose up to £18,000 an hour before the slash on the £100 maximum stakes.
Mike Dixon, CEO of Addaction, one of the UK’s leading drug, alcohol and mental health charities said: “These machines pile up profits for the gambling industry at the expense of those who can least afford it,”
“We need much stronger regulation and proper funding for treatment so people can get help.”
For campaigners against FOBTs, the regulation change was a step forward. But, what about the people who are about to lose their jobs?
Adam Bradford, the founder of the Safer Online Gambling Group, said: “These jobs were inevitably going to go and at least represent a decline in the misery of betting on the High Street.
“Perhaps William Hill can deploy its staff into treating addicts and supporting those who are vulnerable across their other betting outlets.”