United Kingdom - About 12,000 jobs are put at risk as a quarter of betting shops on the high street of the United Kingdom are slated for closure this year.
William Hill, a known name in the sportsbook community, is the first to close a significant number of betting shops, and they have blamed the UK government’s decision to slash the maximum stake allowed on fixed-odds terminals as the reason for these closures. The maximum stake used to be £100 per spin, but the new regulations have slashed it down to £2, and these regulations started getting implemented in April this year.
The stricter regulations came after a lengthy campaign by MPs and activists, who refer to fixed-odds terminals as “the crack cocaine of gambling” and say they are directly linked to gambling addiction. The government therefore reduced the allowable stake in hopes of helping problem gamblers and other vulnerable individuals. Bookmakers then announced their intention to close some shops primarily because fixed-odds terminals used to be the source of about half of their yearly high street income.
William Hill has announced that they suffered a major loss in revenue since the new regulations were implemented and may be closing 700 betting shops, which would put about 4,500 jobs at risk. They further said the closures will likely begin before this year ends. Even before the reduction in maximum stake was implemented, the gambling industry has issued warnings about the possible loss of thousands of jobs. These warnings, however, did not deter government. They pushed through with the reduction, saying fixed-odds terminals prey on society’s most vulnerable.
Another leading UK bookmaker, Ladbrokes Coral, has also announced that they may be closing a good number of their high street betting shops. GVC, which owns Ladbrokes, has already said they might close 900 to 1,000 shops, which would threaten the jobs of about 5,000 individuals. Even Betfred has said they might close up to 500 of their high street shops, which would put 2,500 people at risk of losing their jobs.
Industry analyst Gavin Kelleher told the BBC that between 2,000 and 3,000 of the UK bookies could close as a result of the stake reduction. “I think we will definitely see more closures.” Kelleher said. “You are also likely to see stores close elsewhere in the market from independents and potentially from Betfred so I think all told we’ll probably see over 2,000 to 3,000 shops close in the UK, which is a significant chunk of the 8,400 shops that currently reside in the UK.”
Asked about the expected closures, Business Minister Jake Berry said he felt bad about William Hill employees who are now worried about losing their jobs. However, he also said: “I think we’ve done the right thing. Those fixed-odds betting terminals were causing enormous problems for some of the poorest and most vulnerable in our society.” He also said having fewer betting shops on high street could develop the area into a more diverse business venue.