Is The Writing On The Wall For William Hill’s High Street Shops?

William Hill writes to thousands of landlords requesting massive 50% rent reductions, in response to introduction of £2 FOBT limits.

In an ominous sign that might signal high street bookies are about to go the same way as almost every other shop on the British high street, William Hill has contacted around 2,000 of its landlords in the UK, asking for 50% rent reductions.

The huge reduction in the maximum permitted stakes on fixed-odds betting terminals (FOBTs) to just £2 from 1st April, was always expected to call the viability of some high street betting shops into question, but the sheer scale of the requested rent reductions has caught many by surprise, and underlines just how precarious the retail business now is.

Even without the FOBT limits, operating retail premises in the UK is becoming increasingly difficult. William Hill’s move to request significant rent reductions echoes that of some of Britain’s biggest retailers, like the embattled department store chains House of Fraser and Debenhams, and highlights a perfect storm of problems, including punitive business rates, plummeting footfall and online competition.

Though the William Hill has said they aren’t planning any immediate store closures, with the company recently reporting a loss of £722m ($956m) before tax for 2018, even though revenue was up 2% to £1.62bn, many will now be asking if retail betting has any future in the UK at all.

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