Bookies’ future under spotlight

THE future of a bookmakers is to be discussed after William Hill revealed plans to close more than 100 shops across the UK this year.

The bookies, which has a branch in East Beach Street in the Old Town, as well as a shop in the High Street, Battle, says an increase in Machine Gaming Duty to 25 percent is to blame.

The bookmaker said operating profit had fallen by 14 percent in the first quarter of 2014,

William Hill, which has more than 2,400 outlets across the UK, says it is to launch a consultation to decide which of its branches should face closure, putting around 430 jobs at risk.

The company has refused to comment on whether the Battle or Hastings branch would be at risk.

The company believes increased taxes on high stakes gambling machines in its betting shops are likely to cost it around £22 million when they come into force next year.

The Government announced the planned increase in tax to 25 percent from 20 percent in its March budget.

A statement from William Hill said: “We will enter into a consultation with representatives on our approach to the shop closures, and associated risk to employment.

“This process will involve consultations on ways in which we can look to redeploy those colleagues impacted by the closures, and where we can, reduce the number of redundancies.

“The closures are expected to be in place by the end of the year.

“Obviously we will be trying our very best to minimise redundancies across the estate and would hope to redeploy many of those affected.”

Ralph Topping, William Hill chief executive officer, added: “As a direct result of the Government’s unexpected announcement about an increase in Machine Gaming Duty to 25 percent, we have reviewed shop profitability and will be closing a portfolio of circa 110 shops this year.

“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 betting company was founded by William Hill in 1934 at a time when gambling was illegal in Britain.

It changed hands many times, being acquired by Sears Holdings in 1971, then by Grand Metropolitan in 1988, then by Brent Walker in 1989.