William Hill to close 119 betting shops

William Hill’s – a distinctive shopfront on nearly every High Street.

By Democrat reporter

William Hill says 119 of its High Street betting shops will not re-open after the shutdown forced by the coronavirus outbreak.

The company, which has 1,500 UK outlets, including a number in West Dunbartonshire and Argyll and Bute, said it did not expect customers to return in the numbers seen before the Covid-19 pandemic.

It said about 300 staff were affected nationally, and most had been redeployed elsewhere.

Trading has recovered well post-lockdown, William Hill said, and it is repaying £24.5m of UK furlough funds.

Its comments came as it reported pre-tax profits of £141m for the first six months of 2020, compared with a loss of £63m last year.

Its revenues, however, fell by a third to £554m, reflecting the impact of the lockdown, and the fact that with so many sporting events cancelled, there were fewer events to take a punt on.

William Hill employs 12,000 people in 10 countries, with 7,000 in the UK.

In a statement it said: “We anticipate that longer term retail footfall will not return to pre-COVID levels and 119 [UK] shops will remain closed following early lease breaks, with the majority of colleagues redeployed within the estate.”

Fewer than 20 people will not be redeployed.

The company said trading had been strong before the pandemic. When the lockdown came in, it said it had controlled costs “effectively” and was now recovering well.

Its presence on the High Street and town centres was already receding. Last year, it said it was cutting 700 shops after new regulations dramatically cut the size of a stake in fixed-odds betting terminals – gaming machines situated in shops – from £100 to £2.

Julie Palmer, partner at Begbies Traynor, said: “A spike in bored consumers turning to online gaming provided some respite and much-needed revenue, offering a new market for the company to target.

“But the business will need to continue developing its technology platform and product offering if it is to regain some of the lost revenue from the past few months in what is a competitive market.”

William Hill plans to expand further in the US, where new opportunities are arising as the country’s previously strict gambling rules are relaxed in some states.

It said its international online business grew by 17%, and added that it now had almost a third of all US sports betting.

Chief executive Ulrik Bengtsson said: “I am delighted with William Hill’s performance in these extraordinary times. Our team has been remarkable, supporting each other and our customers throughout the pandemic, and I would like to thank them for their continuing efforts.

“The furlough scheme provided welcome and timely support, and meant we could protect the jobs of our 7,000 UK retail colleagues. Therefore, given the strength of our recovery post-lockdown, we have decided to repay the furlough funds.”

2 comments

  1. They’ll just migrate betting online.

    Not a betting man myself, it can become a horrible destructive disease. Indeed, in earlier times betting in Scotland was illegal. But as the argument now goes, people should be free to pursue whatever choice of poison they want be it tobacco, alcohol, cocaine, betting, and especially since there is big money in it.

    Ah well, not anti betting, but maybe a reduction in the number of bookies in the area might not be a bad thing.

    1. Ah, well. Sadly I remember the days of three cross tanner doubles and a tanner each way treble, Willie. I recall Craig the Bookie in High Street up Johnny Biagi’s close and Charlie Young, whose blower was up the pawn close. There were street bookies in almost every housing scheme. Andy Beattie was the man to put on a line with in the Renton and the Vale. It was my misfortune to share a 20/1 winner with my grampa for my first ever bet. I had sixpence on it. Nowadays it’s the Grand National for a bet which is lunacy. Once a year and all that. I enjoy a day out at Ayr, Kelso or Musselburgh though. Areas of deprivation, such as West Dunbartonshire, are prime targets for the bookies though. All that disposable income. Like taking sweeties aff the weans.

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