fter revealing the financial fall-out from a tough 2018 on Monday with operating profits falling 15%, the company announced that it has earmarked about 900 shops for closure.
Many betting shops will be closed in a matter of weeks, as the company shifts its focus to online gambling and expansion overseas.
William Hill has been hit hard by a government crackdown on fixed odds betting terminals (FOBTs), the so-called “crack cocaine” of gambling. Maximum stakes will be slashed to just £2 from April, pushing many shops into loss-making territory overnight.
As reported by the Telegraph, insiders said that while the company will shut some shops within days of the FOBT restrictions being implemented, it will take up to two years before the programme of closures is completed.
Chief executive Philip Bowcock called 2018 “a pivotal year for both William Hill and the wider industry”.
“We now have greater clarity around the key challenges and opportunities for our business. In 2019 we will remodel our retail offer while building a digitally-led international business,” he said.
Last week fierce rival GVC, the owner of Ladbrokes and Coral, warned that “UK retail is in terminal decline”. Up to a 1,000 of its outlets are set for closure. “There is no point in sugar-coating it, some jobs will go,” said boss Kenny Alexander.
William Hill is focusing its attention overseas for expansion. It hopes to soon complete a £240m deal to buy Swedish gaming company Mr Green in an acquisition that will increase the proportion of international and digital revenues.
Following the recent relaxation of sports gambling rules in the US, it remains an important new battleground worth billions of dollars.
Of the British bookmakers, William Hill historically had the biggest footprint across the Atlantic but is expected to be overtaken by GVC. It has a joint venture with casino giant MGM Resorts that allow it to capture around a quarter of the US sports betting market.