William Hill is facing criticism for its trial offering of hot food at certain UK retail sportsbooks, something some see as a way to get more people to gamble. [Image: Shutterstock.com]
William Hill is facing criticism for its use of “cynical” tactics after it started a trial offering of in-store hot food at some of its UK retail sportsbooks. The in-store cafe offers certain food items that are cheaper than what people would find at McDonald’s.
the reason for the test run is because customers have requested it
At a William Hill branch in central Manchester, the “WH Cafe” has signage showcasing the likes of breakfast, burgers, and meal deals for sale. In all, William Hill is trialing this food offering at five locations. The operator has stated that the reason for the test run is because customers have requested it, rather than it being an attempt to keep people in the sportsbooks for longer periods of time.
Speaking out against the concept
Over the years, many retail sportsbooks have provided tea, coffee, and biscuits to bettors, often for free. However, certain gambling awareness groups have expressed concerns over the introduction of cheap, hot food at retail sportsbooks. They claim that this type of offering is a “loss leader,” that the offering of hot food in itself does not generate a profit, but rather will indirectly make people stay longer in the retail sportsbooks and spend more money.
the cheapest sausage and egg muffin on the high street”
Clean Up Gambling founder and recovering gambling addict Matt Zarb-Cousin expressed concerns about William Hill offering “the cheapest sausage and egg muffin on the high street” and questioned if this was a loss leader tactic with the goal of generating new customers.
Labour MP and chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Gambling-Related Harm Carolyn Harris also weighed in on William Hill’s trial offering of hot food. She said: “It looks like a cynical plot to keep customers in the bookies. Yet another tactic of an industry hell bent on squeezing every pound they can out of customers.”
Explaining the reasoning
A William Hill spokesperson has stated that while the early feedback has been positive from customers, the operator does not plan to roll out WH Cafes across its 1,408 UK stores. The spokesperson reiterated that the concept came on the back of customer suggestions and aims to improve the overall customer experience, rather than trying to increase the time people spend in the stores.
This WH Cafe trial comes at a time when the UK gambling sector is undergoing a lot of change. The UK government is currently in the middle of reviewing gambling legislation in the region. It has taken feedback from a wide range of stakeholders and is getting ready to update gambling legislation so it is fit for the digital age. Notable changes are expected off the back of this review.