Although the bookies might be a familiar sight on the high streets across the United Kingdom, the most recent regulatory changes in the industry have made the future of these high street staples more uncertain than ever.
The decision made by the UK government this summer regarding the reduction of the maximum possible stakes on fixed-odds betting terminals from £100 to £2 is expected to have a massive, industry-wide impact across the country.
These new measures were brought in on the back of growing backlash against the industry, which accused leading bookmakers of encouraging predatory business practices in the name of increased profits. Taking place mostly across socioeconomically disadvantaged areas, these policies were bound to create a wave of backlash from the disenfranchised public, forcing regulators to change policy. The new guidelines are aimed at protecting the most vulnerable people and problem gamblers from the most affected communities.
In the wake of these new restrictions being implemented, the leading bookmakers announced a wave of closures across the UK, with GVC — the owner of Ladbrokes and Coral Brand — suggesting up to 1,000 stores could be closed in the near future directly as a result of this new measure.
However, not all bookmakers have come out against the new proposal. In fact, the largest bookmaker, the recently merged Paddy Power Betfair, was an active supporter of the new measures. This expression of support is not out of line with their previous positions, and Paddy Power has long been pushing for the introduction of responsible gambling measures to be implemented across the UK.
Paddy Power Betfair’s support of this new measure suggests that the closures announced by a number of bookmakers in response have been undertaken not simply out of the hostile business conditions it might create. On the contrary, there is a strong argument to be made that the likes of William Hill and Ladbrokes are simply adapting to new market conditions in the sports betting space, where online sports betting has skyrocketed in popularity. Online sports betting websites have the benefit of being vastly cheaper to run than physical bookmakers, especially with inflation driving rents and other associated operating costs up. With that said, there definitely seems more there than initially meets the eye.
In light of this combination of changing business conditions, announcements like those from William Hill, who have revealed a plan to downsize their portfolio by 700 shops over the next several years, are likely to become a more common sight. Similarly, we can anticipate a degree of market consolidation, much like the Paddy Power buyout of Betfair in the last year, as market players look to snap up a bargain.
With all that said, the face of high streets across the UK like Teddington could be set to undergo some significant changes in the coming months. Although they were once a familiar sight on your typical high street, the traditional bookmaker looks set to become a relic of a bygone era as the ready availability of fast internet and powerful mobile technology tempts more and more players online. As they say, watch this space!