William Hill plans to close 700 UK betting offices

Due to the regulation of the FOBTs vending machine in the UK, there would be a drop in turnover at betting offices. William Hill will probably close 700 betting outlets nationwide – 4,500 jobs could be threatened.

In the UK, betting agencies are allowed to provide not only weather terminals but also Fixed Odds Betting Terminals on which casino games such as Roulette can be played.

These slot machines used to play at £ 100 (£111) per spin, and have now been reduced to £ 2 (£2.22) per turn. The regulation has been in force since 1. It will enter into force on 30 April 2019 – much later than actually planned.

The closure of the bookmaker’s branches is nothing new. As early as March 2019, William Hill had predicted in his annual report that perhaps up to 900 betting offices would have to be closed. However, the company believes that far more locations could be affected if the situation does not improve.

William Hill plans to close 700 UK betting offices

William Hill currently has around 2,300 betting offices in the UK, employing around 12,500 people. So far it is not known which 700 stores have to close.

However, the employees were already informed about the plans and the first closures are scheduled to follow by the end of the year.

What are FOBTs? Why are they criticised?

Fixed Odds Betting Terminals (FOBT) were introduced in the betting offices in 1999 or 2001 (both figures exist).

These are slot machines where you can win at fixed odds. It does not matter if the Software displays a slot machine, roulette box or card game. The payout percentage and chances of winning must be recognizable on the device.

By 2018, the number of Terminals has risen steadily to 33,468 in the UK gaming offices. With FOBTs 2018, bookmakers generated sales of £ 1.83 billion – EUR 2 billion) – an increase of 74% compared to 2009. At that time, sales on the UK market were only £ 1.05 billion (€1.17 billion).

FOBTs have repeatedly been criticised in recent years. You could place at the slot machines partly 100 pounds per spin, which encouraged playing with high stakes. In addition, slot machines would significantly increase the risk of developing gambling addiction among users and they would always be exposed to the risk of financial ruin due to the very high stakes. The FOBTs even described opponents as” Crack “or” cocaine ” of gambling.

What do the closures mean for companies and employees?

For William Hill, the betting offices no longer seem lucrative enough. In the first 17 weeks, the company’s sales declined by 7%. For this reason, 700 betting offices must now close. The company’s communication States:

The UK Gambling Commission has been reviewing the FOBTs since 2016. Over several years, there has been a dispute over a restriction of use. After not expecting a limitation of FOBTs operations before 2020 in 2018, the amendment to the law was then passed relatively quickly. As early as April 2019, the restrictions on operations entered into force.

The group will seek to fully encourage voluntary staff reductions and redistributive measures and to support all colleagues throughout the process.

Tom Blenkinsop, Operations Director at the Union Betting Shop Workers union Community, called the communication a “devastating message”. Thousands of employees in the betting offices are affected.

For this reason, he called on William Hill to work with the Union. The employees concerned should receive additional support and advice from the Union during closures. In addition, the Union member also saw the British government as a responsibility:

The government must also take on its role and examine what support it can provide to workers whose jobs are threatened. The workers do not deserve to be victims of the changes in the industry, caused either by government policy or the significant shift to Online gambling.

Industry should have prepared better

The British Ministry of digital, media and Sport is convinced that the FOBTs needed to be restricted. It contributes to preventing the extreme losses of the players who can afford it the least.

The first ideas for this Change is there since more than a year, the industry had enough time to think about and to counteract the loss of jobs.

William Hill plans to close 700 UK betting offices

The company is now under the obligation to provide adequate support to its employees in closing the betting offices. Adam Bradford, founder of the Safer Online Gambling Group, was of the opinion that the bookmaker could use the staff to support game addicts and help them by early recognition of addiction. However, it is not yet known whether William Hill is considering such options.

GVC Holdings must also include betting offices

Meanwhile, it has also become known that GVC Holdings, which operates brands such as Ladbrokes, Coral and bwin, also has problems with securing around 900 sites in the UK. In this case, 5,000 jobs would be threatened. The company also blames the application limitations for the closing wave.

Criticism of the argument of bookmakers

Critics see the FOBT operational limits only for forward-looking reasons. In the end, sales of Offline sports betting have been declining for several years. Gambling is also becoming more popular and lucrative in the UK, making online sports betting more popular and lucrative.

In addition, William Hill and GVC Holdings continue to access the US market through various collaborations with American gambling providers.

Therefore, it is believed that this move away from the UK Offline market was inevitable and only accelerated by the operational limits.

In the end, it remains to be seen how many sites are actually closing and how many employees have to be dismissed. At least the excitement has assured the companies concerned the attention of the media.

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