Bookie to shut 700 shops as UK curbs on 'crack cocaine' gambling terminals bite hard

Bookie to shut 700 shops as UK curbs on 'crack cocaine' gambling terminals bite hard

William Hill plans to cut about a third of its betting shops and jobs in the UK after the British government slashed the maximum stake permitted on fixed-odds terminals, dubbed the “crack cocaine” of gambling by their critics.

Britain cut the maximum stake allowed to £2 in April after complaints that the machines, which had previously let gamblers bet up to £100 every 20 seconds, were highly addictive and allowed players to rack up big losses.

William Hill, which last year warned that about 900 shops could be shut, said it had suffered a significant fall in revenues since the change and would close 700 of them.

It said that the closures, which would put about 4,500 of its 12,500 British jobs at risk, were likely to begin before the end of the year.

The closure of betting shops is likely to further accelerate that trend towards online gambling. “This is all about evolving consumer preferences and managing the progressive shift online,” Raymond James analyst Chris Bailey said.

Rivals, including GVC, which owns Ladbroke’s, has warned the stake limit would lead to the closure of up to a 1,000 shops.

And in May, Flutter Entertainment, formerly Paddy Power Betfair, forecast its revenue from fixed-odds machines would slump 43% but said it did not see substantial changes in footfall at its shops as a result of the change. Shares in William Hill have slumped over 40% in the past year; GVC shares have slid 32%; while Flutter shares have fallen 14%.

Bookies have been pushing into the US after the US Supreme Court overturned a federal ban on sports betting.

- Reuters. Additional reporting Irish Examiner

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