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William Hill's Newmarket branch at risk of closure after it announces it will shut 700 stores across the country




Bookmaker William Hill has blamed a policy championed by Newmarket's MP as the reason behind its decision to close 700 stores across the country - leaving the future of the town's branch uncertain.

The firm, which has a shop in The Guineas Shopping Centre, said a 'large number of redundancies is anticipated'. with 4,500 people at risk of losing their job as it prepares to shut a third of its outlets.

The company blamed the government's decision to reduce the maximum stake for their fixed odds betting terminals £100 to £2, which came into force in April.

William Hill in Newmarket's Guineas shopping centre (13434441)
William Hill in Newmarket's Guineas shopping centre (13434441)

In May last year town MP Matt Hancock, then Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport, slashed the maximum bet. He described fixed odds machines as a "social blight" which "prey on the most vulnerable in society".

A William Hill spokesman said because of the move it meant there has been a 'significant fall in gaming machine revenues'.

But Gordon Fletcher, retail analyst at the University of Salford Business School, said the rise of online gambling was the significant factor in its decision.

"The primary reasons for the closure cited by William Hill are the recent changes to the maximum bet on fixed odds terminals from £100 to £2. This is another victory for campaigners seeking to reduce the harmful effects of gambling on individuals and families," he said.

Matt Hancock described fixed odds machines as a "social blight" which "prey on the most vulnerable in society". Picture Mark Westley (13434531)
Matt Hancock described fixed odds machines as a "social blight" which "prey on the most vulnerable in society". Picture Mark Westley (13434531)

"However, the rise of the online gambling industry has to be seen as a more fundamental reason for William Hill fleeing the high street.

"In this way the company can shed the burden associated with the cost of rent and wages to more dynamically respond to changes and competitors in the sector. It will also have the arguably less desirable side-effect of moving some problem gambling off the high street and into the privacy of the home and onto personal screens."

The company has not yet announced which branches are to close, but will do so in 'the next month or so'.

The spokesman said: "The group will look to apply voluntary redundancy and redeployment measures extensively and will be providing support to all colleagues throughout the process.

"Subject to the outcome of the consultation process, shop closures are likely to begin before the end of the year."



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