Thousands of jobs at risk at bookmaker William Hill as 700 betting shops to be axed
Around 4,500 jobs are at risk at bookmaker William Hill after it announced plans to axe 700 betting shops across the UK.
The group, which has shops in Billingham and Horden, warned a "large number of redundancies" are expected and it has begun consultation meetings with the 4,500 affected staff.
Shop closures are due to start by the end of the year.
William Hill blamed the closures on the Government's decision to slash the maximum stake on controversial fixed-odds betting terminals (FOTBs) to £2 in April, which has hammered bookmakers' sales.
On its store closure plans, the group said: "This follows the Government's decision to reduce the maximum stake on B2 gaming products to £2 on 1 April 2019.
"Since then the company has seen a significant fall in gaming machine revenues, in line with the guidance given when the Government's decision was announced in May 2018."
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The industry's trade union blasted the closures as "devastating news" for workers and called on the Government to offer support.
The closures will see William Hill's 2,282 shop estate shrink by close to a third.
It said it was too early to confirm which shops will shut until consultations are complete.
William Hill - which has 16,000 employees across the group - said it would look to offer voluntary redundancy and redeploy affected staff "extensively" where possible, "providing support to all colleagues throughout the process".
Tom Blenkinsop, operations director at the Community union, said: "This is devastating news for thousands of betting shop workers."