‘Up to 3,000 betting shops to close’

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William Hill’s decision to close 700 shops could just be the beginning of a wave of High Street betting shop closures, an analyst has warned.

Between 2,000 and 3,000 bookies could close out of the UK’s 8,400 shops, analyst Gavin Kelleher told the BBC.

William Hill blamed the closures on the UK government’s decision to reduce the maximum stake on fixed-odds betting terminals from £100 to £2.

The stakes were reduced to help vulnerable people and problem gamblers.

“I think we will definitely see more closures. GVC, which owns the Ladbrokes and Coral brand, have said they will close up to 1,000 stores,” said Mr Kelleher, who is an equity analyst at Goodbody Stockbrokers.

“You are also likely to see stores close elsewhere in the market from independents and potentially from Betfred so I think all told we’ll probably see over 2,000 to 3,000 shops close in the UK, which is a significant chunk of the 8,400 shops that currently reside in the UK.”

Mr Kelleher said revenue growth had been flat at High Street betting shops for the past five or six years, so the stake reduction had been a “tipping point”.

“The £2 stake is the main issue behind those closures to be honest,” he said.

Although gambling machines are a controversial issue, he adds that “there is an economic impact here” with more than 50,000 people employed in retail betting in the UK.

He said that the sector pays a “significant amount of tax and duty”, and added that the sector also pays duty to horse racing.

“You could say that retail betting is a key support for the UK horse-racing industry, which accounts for [the employment of] about 100,000 people in the UK,” Mr Kelleher said.

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