- William Hill to close 700 stores, risking 4,500 jobs in the United Kingdom.
- The announcement comes after the UK government slashed the maximum stake on Fixed Odds Betting Terminals to £2.
- The terminals, known as the "crack cocaine" of gambling, had led to an explosion of betting shops on British high streets.
- Campaigners welcomed the closures, while unions called for jobs to be protected.
LONDON - High Street bookmakers William Hill is set to close 700 of its shops, putting 4,500 jobs at risk, following the government's decision to reduce the spread of Fixed Odds Betting terminals.
Theresa May's government agreed in April to reduce the maximum stake on the terminals, known by critics as the "crack cocaine" of gambling, to £2.
The popularity of the terminals with gamblers had led to a big increase in betting shops on high streets across the United Kingdom, with many stores reportedly relying on the terminals for a majority of their revenue.
However, with an original maximum stake of £100, gamblers were able to quickly lose large amounts of money, with younger gamblers most affected.
Following the decision to reduce the stake on the machines, William Hill reported a "significant fall" in revenues, leading to today's decision.
"The group will look to apply voluntary redundancy and redeployment measures extensively and will be providing support to all colleagues throughout the process," a statement by the company said.
Betting shop workers' union Community described the decision as "devastating news" for employees at William Hill.
"The government also has a role to play and must look at what support they can offer to workers whose jobs are threatened as a consequence of changes to the law around FOBTs," Community operations director Tom Blenkinsop said.
"Betting shops provide an important source of local employment and many of our members have served the company loyally for years. 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."
However, campaigners welcomed the decision.
"These jobs were inevitably going to go and at least represent a decline in the misery of betting on the High Street," Adam Bradford, founder of the Safer Online Gambling Group, said.
"Perhaps William Hill can deploy its staff into treating addicts and supporting those who are vulnerable across their other betting outlets."
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