Bookmaker William Hill is to close more than 100 British betting shops this year, putting 420 jobs at risk, following the Government’s decision to hike taxes on high-stakes gambling machines.
The group plans to close 109 loss-making shops from a total estate of over 2,400.
It is not yet clear how the move will impact its 23 betting shops in Leeds as no announcements have been made yet. The firm said that staff will be told before the branch closures are announced.
William Hill is a major employer in Yorkshire with 3,000 staff, including 1,300 in Leeds. The city is home to William Hill’s retail, trading and IT operations.
The Government angered the betting industry by announcing an increase in tax to 25 per cent from 20 per cent on the machines in its budget in March, a move that will cost bookmakers around £75m a year. The machines have become one of its main sources of revenue.
Critics of the machines, which offer versions of games such as roulette, say they are addictive and complain there are too many betting shops in UK town centres, but the industry said there is no evidence to support claims that they are fuelling problem gambling.
William Hill, Britain’s largest bookmaker, said the tax rise meant there is no prospect of turning around a group of 109 underperforming branches.
The closures will result in exceptional costs of up to £24m.
Chief executive Ralph Topping said: “This is particularly disappointing as, through the economic downturn, we have worked hard to grow our retail base, but this further planned increase in indirect taxation makes this action necessary.”
The company has warned that the increase in the tax on fixed odds betting terminals will cost it around £22m a year.