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UK betting group William Hill plans 4,500 job cuts
[LONDON] British betting company William Hill on Thursday said it planned to shut 700 shops with a loss of 4,500 jobs, blaming the UK government's crackdown on problem-gambling.
Explaining its decision, William Hill said that since the start of April, when the government slashed the top wager for fixed-odds betting machines, "the company has seen a significant fall in... revenues".
The job losses comprise about one third of the company's global workforce of 15,500 people, while the closures will leave it with 1,577 shops, according to a spokesman.
After pressure from campaigners and lawmakers to act on problem-gambling, the government dramatically cut the maximum stake for a bet on the machines to £2 (S$3.41) from £100.
Targeting also the possibility for gamblers to bet every 20 seconds on such terminals, charities, church leaders and addiction groups had lobbied hard for a change.
"No doubt the stricter regulations in the UK hurt William Hill, but it is possible that there are other issues which prompted the drastic move," said David Madden, market analyst at CMC Markets UK.
"Betting shops are expensive to run, and management possibly see the future in e-commerce," said Mr Madden, adding that the government "ruling probably just sped up the decision to retreat from the high street".
Thursday's announcement is the latest piece of bad news to hit the British high street, where a string of well-known retailers have collapsed in recent times.
Long-established retail names are battling sliding consumer sentiment and Brexit uncertainty alongside the faltering economy. They also face fierce competition from the likes of online US titan Amazon.
The last two years have witnessed the collapse of music retailer HMV, Toys 'R' Us, electronics specialist Maplin, and value chain Poundworld, as well as department stores Debenhams and House of Fraser.