FOBT Changes Force William Hill to Cull 900 Stores Ahead of Online Expansion

William Hill may close up to 900 high street shops as it aims to expand its online business ahead of forthcoming changes to fixed odds betting terminals (FOBTs).

William Hill betting shop
William Hill could close up to 900 betting shops and axe 4,500 jobs over the next two years. (Image: Image Creative UK)

Having previously hinted that closures would be inevitable if the maximum FOBT stakes were cut from £100 to £2, the operator has now confirmed changes will be made.

In a trading statement published on January 21, CEO Philip Bowcock said clarity on the government’s intentions will alter the company’s direction in 2019.

“In 2019 we will remodel our retail offer while building a digitally-led international business. With rapid expansion underway in the US, building on profitable foundations, and the acquisition of Mr Green nearing completion, we look forward to making further progress this year,” wrote Bowcock.

Trading Live for Online Opportunities

Following the official announcement, William Hill insiders have told The Guardian that around 900 betting shops are “earmarked” for closure. Although full details of the cull are being kept under wraps, many doors will close within days of the FOBT taking place in April.

Although the threat of closures has loomed since talk of changing reducing FOBT betting limits was floated, the full impact is now taking shape.

What’s interesting about William Hill’s recent announcement is that it hasn’t lost faith in the US.

Since the Department of Justice (DOJ) adjusted its 2011 interpretation of the Wire Act, uncertainty has spread across the US. Although the recent opinion could make cross-state online gaming difficult, if not impossible, William Hill remains confident in its transatlantic expansion plans.

Wire Act Opinion Doesn’t Worry William Hill

In October, the UK operator finalised a deal to manage Golden Entertainment’s sportsbooks in three states. With further offers to work with leading gaming brands, William Hill has already become one of the most active British operators in the US.

At this stage, legal experts and industry insiders sorting through the fallout of the January decision. However, for William Hill, becoming more active in the US online market will help offset a drop in UK high street earnings.

For consumers, all eyes will now be on other UK betting brands as a wave of closures by William Hill could have a domino effect across the country. While anti-gambling advocates would welcome a reduction in the number high street betting shops, those who enjoy an occasional flutter may find their options severely limited.

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