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UK – FOBT limits and falling revenues will see William Hill shift its focus

By - 22 January 2019

British bookmaker William Hill is considering closing 900 betting stores and axing 4,500 as it readjusts its business plan to cope with the new limits on FOBTs.

With maximum stakes on FOBTs being restricted to just £2 from April and with its full year results to January dropping by an expected 15 per cent, the company is planning to shift its focus from the high street to digital sports betting. It confirmed it was looking at closing 40 per cent of its high street venues across the country.
The bookmaker said that adjusted operating profit would come in at £234m with ‘excellent growth in the US challenged by wider high street conditions.’

The group’s full-year adjusted operating profit for 2018 would be ‘in line with guidance, which was for 2018 operating profit to be in the range of £225m to £245m.’ Underlying operating profit increased four per cent year on year, excluding the ‘impact of enhanced customer due diligence measures in Online and US Expansion costs.’
During William Hill said the year online delivered a ‘good underlying performance.’

“There was excellent growth in the US Existing business and the Group invested in rapid expansion as US states regulated sports betting, and we are now live in seven states,” it said. “Overall the US business broadly broke even in 2018 after allowing for significant expansion costs. As anticipated, Retail profits reduced year-on-year, challenged by wider high street conditions.”

Philip Bowcock, CEO, said: “2018 was a pivotal year for both William Hill and the wider industry. We now have greater clarity around the key challenges and opportunities for our business. In 2019 we will remodel our Retail offer while building a digitally-led international business, underpinned by a sustainable approach as part of our Nobody Harmed ambition. With rapid expansion underway in the US, building on profitable foundations, and the acquisition of Mr Green nearing completion, we look forward to making further progress this year.”

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