If you didn’t see this coming, you haven’t been paying attention. Following the U.K.’s decision to mandate a £2 ($2.52) maximum bet on Fixed Odds Betting Terminals (FOBTs), William Hill has announced the upcoming closure of 700 betting shops, the BBC reports.
The decision to close the shops, which will possibly result in 4,500 people losing their jobs, is directly related to the new maximum bet limit. The company cited “a significant fall” in revenue as the motivating factor for shutting down the shops.
The shops won’t close until later this year, and at this point, it’s not known which shops will close. The operator also noted that options will be made to employees, stating, “The group will look to apply voluntary redundancy and redeployment measures extensively and will be providing support to all colleagues throughout the process.”
After the U.K. Gambling Commission (UKGC) announced the new limit on FOBTs, William Hill declared they might need to close up to 900 shops on a forecasted loss of up to £100 million ($125 million) a year in revenue. They also pleaded with landlords to cut rents, suggesting that it would be better for everyone if the shops stayed open rather than closing.
Tom Blenkinsop, operating director of the shop worker’s union, is calling on both William Hill and the government to step up and do more for the employees affected. “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,” he said.
Those in favor of the reduction in stake don’t have much concern for William Hill though. The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport said in a statement:
“The gambling industry has had over a year to make preparations for this change, including to mitigate job losses. We now expect them to provide the right support to any staff affected by planned shop closures.”
It’s still to be seen if the stake cut has the effect that the UKGC is hoping for. While it will be much harder for operators to run profitable businesses and for customers to place large wagers, those who are really at risk will still find ways to make their bets, even if it means doing so with black market bookies.