April 25 (Reuters) - William Hill said on Friday it would close 109 of its British betting shops this year, blaming the decision on a tax increase on high stakes gambling machines.
The firm, Britain’s largest bookmaker, said operating profit had fallen by 14 percent in the first quarter of 2014, hit by big payouts to gamblers on two weekends on which many of the top soccer sides had won.
William Hill said the closure of the betting shops would put 420 jobs at risk and result in exceptional costs of up to 24 million pounds ($40.3 million).
“This is particularly disappointing as, through the economic downturn, we have worked hard to grow our retail base but this further planned increase in indirect taxation makes this action necessary,” Chief Executive Ralph Topping said in a statement.
William Hill has around 2,400 betting shops.
The company believes increased taxes on high stakes gambling machines in its betting shops are likely to cost it around 22 million pounds when they come into force next year.
The government announced the planned increase in tax to 25 percent from 20 percent in its March budget.
$1 = 0.5953 British Pounds Reporting by Keith Weir, editing by James Davey