BOOKMAKER William Hill has announced plans to close hundreds of betting shops across the UK, putting at risk stores across the county.

Around 4,500 jobs are at risk after the betting firm announced plans to axe 700 betting shops, saying it has begun consultation meetings with 4,500 affected staff.

Shop closures are due to start by the end of the year, but the firm has said is is too early to say where the closures will be until consultations are complete.

The betting firm has a shop in The Cross, Sidbury, St John's and in Brickfields, in Worcester.

It also has a shop in Victoria Square, Droitwich.

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William Hill blamed the closures on the Government’s decision to slash the maximum stake on controversial fixed-odds betting terminals (FOTBs) to £2 in April, which has hammered bookmakers’ sales.

On its store closure plans, the group said: "The company has seen a significant fall in gaming machine revenues, in line with the guidance given when the Government’s decision was announced in May 2018.”

The industry’s trade union blasted the closures as “devastating news” for workers and called on the Government to offer support.

The closures will see William Hill’s 2,282 shop estate shrink by close to a third.

Tom Blenkinsop, operations director at the Community union, said: “This is devastating news for thousands of betting shop workers.”

"The Government also has a role to play and must look at what support they can offer to workers whose jobs are threatened as a consequence of changes to the law around FOBTs.

“Workers don’t deserve to be the victims of the changes happening in the industry as a result of either government policy or the significant shift towards online gambling."

William Hill revealed in March it had swung to a pre-tax loss of £721.9 million in 2018 compared with a profit of £146.5 million the prior year after it took an £882.8 million hit on its retail operations in light of the FOTB stake reduction.

In its most recent trading update since the stake cut came into effect, William Hill said gaming net revenues plunged 15% in the 17 weeks to April 30, with wider retail turnover down seven percent.

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