Sheffield anti-gambling campaigner hails demise of William Hill as firm announces 700 shop closures

A Sheffield anti-gambling campaigner has hailed the demise of bookmaker William Hill after the firm announced it was closing 700 branches.

By Darren Burke
Friday, 5th July 2019, 10:20 am
Updated Friday, 5th July 2019, 4:02 pm

The chain announced yesterday that up to 4,500 jobs could be lost after a slump in revenues.

But Sheffield man Adam Bradford has hailed what he described as the ‘demise of death’s doorstep betting shops.’

Mr Bradford, founder of the Safer Online Gambling Group, said he welcomed the move, which the firm has blamed on a reduction in the maximum stake on Fixed Odds Betting Terminals from £100 to £2 following a hard fight from campaigners.

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He said: ‘This move was long in coming for the betting industry who failed to protect addicts and clean up their act in time.

“Betting machines on the high street have caused untold misery and now punters will make their move into the growing area of online betting.

“For the industry to remain sustainable the online firms need to implement their own spend checking and affordability limits online quickly to prevent a similar crackdown.

“These jobs were inevitably going to go and at least represent a decline in the misery of betting on the high street. Perhaps William Hill can deploy its staff into treating addicts and supporting those who are vulnerable across their other betting outlets.’

Mr Bradford set up the group after his dad David was jailed after hiding his gambling problem which saw him rack up debts of more than £500,000.

The 63-year-old company accountant with a £71,000-a-year salary hid his problem for thirty years, remortgaged the family home three times.

He took out almost 30 different credit cards, payday loans and bank loans to save face but in the end his efforts to conceal his split personality failed.

In 2014 he left home to never return.

He told his family he was going away on a work related training course, little did they know he was to face his sentencing for fraud at Mold Crown Court in Wales.

The judge told him he was ‘helplessly addicted to gambling’ and David even placed his last bet in the break during the court hearing in a last ditch attempt to win back the money he stole.

By re-invoicing his wages to the company he worked for, he managed to defraud them of £53,000. He was duly jailed for two years.

Since his sentencing David has campaigned with his son Adam to bring about changes in gambling laws to protect addicts including rolling out NHS gambling clinics, reducing gambling advertising and putting in place spend limits across gambling products including Fixed Odds Betting Terminals.

Their work has the support of the NHS, Conservative party and Labour Deputy Leader Tom Watson MP.