William Hill to close 14 betting shops in Republic

Bookmaker William Hill plans to close 14 shops in the Republic next month with the loss of 53 jobs. It confirmed yesterday that it was closing 14 outlets in Dublin, Cork, Limerick, Clare, Wexford and Waterford.

Its statement said this would put a number of jobs at risk of redundancy.

It is understood that up to 53 staff will be laid off as a result.

The British-based bookmaker blamed the economic downturn and the proposal to double betting turnover tax to 2 per cent from next May.

It also attributed the decision to the “restriction on introducing innovative and profitable products into Irish shops”.

This is understood to be a reference to the fact Irish law does not allow bookmakers to instal gaming machines known as fixed-odds betting terminals (FOBTs) into bookmakers’ shops.

FOBTs are legal in Britain, and the bookmaking industry here was hoping that proposed changes to gambling legislation in the Republic would pave the way for their introduction to Irish betting shops. This now looks unlikely.

William Hill entered the Irish market four years ago when it bought rival Stanley Leisure’s betting shop business. The deal included 51 outlets in the Republic. The closures will cut this to 37 shops.

The outlets involved will remain open until March 23rd as the company is going through a consultation process with unions.

Turnover in most high street bookmakers is down as the recession has forced punters to cut back on the level and frequency of their betting, according to industry sources.

Meanwhile, William Hill’s biggest Irish rival, Paddy Power, opened the first of three planned shops for Glasgow yesterday.

The new premises is part of an expansion that will see it add 80 across Scotland and other centres in Britain.

The group flagged its expansion plans for Britain last year. Yesterday it said it would spend between EUR 16 million and EUR 20 million on the move between now and 2011.

The drive will increase its estate in the UK to 150 shops. It has almost 200 outlets in the Republic. Its first Glaswegian outlet is on Cambridge Street, and it is planning two for Gilmour and Duke streets.