William Hill Pleads for Rent Cuts to Save 4,500 Betting Shop Employees

William Hill is looking to save jobs and offset any potential losses from its fixed odds betting terminals (FOBTs) by asking for rent cuts.

William Hill betting shops

William Hill has asked 2,000 landlords for rent reductions in an effort to save 900 betting shops. (Image: mablethorpe.info)

As operators prepare for FOBT betting limit cuts in April, William Hill is pushing for concessions to save its stores.

FOBT Cuts Start to Bite

Following the government’s decision to reduce the maximum bet on FOBTs from £100 to £2, the British bookmaker said closures would be inevitable. Although it stopped short of setting a plan in stone, it did say up to 900 betting shops could be shuttered.

“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,” William Hill CEO Philip Bowcock said in January.

Speaking to The Guardian, Bowcock went on to say that hundreds of stores had been “earmarked” for closure. Expected to take place over a two-year period, the move would see 4,500 employees lose their jobs.

In an effort to stabilise its underlying business, William Hill has moved to expand its digital platform. As well as deals in the US, the company completed its acquisition of Mr Green in February.

However, while diversification should ensure the survival of William Hill, shop workers are in a precarious position.

William Hill Working to Save Jobs

Not wanting to lose staff, the operator sent an open letter to 2,000 landlords last week. Explaining that regulatory changes will see live revenue decline by more than 50 percent, it asked for reductions in rent.

“We are asking all our landlords to help us maintain our position at William Hill as the leading gambling operator on the high street so that our shops can continue to offer a great service to our customers and help maintain the viability of our high streets,” reads the open letter obtained by Property Week.

The hope is that at least some of the landlords will see lower rent as better alternative to an empty shop.

At this stage, it’s unclear whether any of them will agree. However, once new FOBT regulations come into force, everyone, including operators, consumers and landlords, will have to roll with the punches.

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