ts statement said this would put a number of jobs at risk of redundancy, and it is understood that up to 53 staff will be laid off as a result.
The British-based bookmaker blamed the economic downturn and the proposal to double betting turnover tax to 2 per cent from next May. It also attributed the decision to the “restriction on introducing innovative and profitable products into Irish shops”.
This is understood to be a reference to the fact Irish law does not allow bookmakers to install gaming machines known as fixed-odds betting terminals (FOBTs) into bookmakers’ shops.
FOBTs are legal in Britain, and the bookmaking industry here was hoping that proposed changes to gambling legislation in the Republic would pave the way for their introduction to Irish betting shops. This now looks unlikely.
William Hill entered the Irish market four years ago when it bought rival Stanley Leisure’s betting shop business. The deal included 51 outlets in the Republic. The closures will cut this to 37 shops. The outlets involved will remain open until March 23rd as the company is going through a consultation process with unions.
Turnover in most high street bookmakers is down as the recession has forced punters to cut back on the level and frequency of their betting, according to industry sources.
Meanwhile, William Hill’s biggest Irish rival, Paddy Power, opened the first of three planned shops for Glasgow this week.