Wednesday 18 September 2019

William Hill profits plunge as FOBT crackdown dents sales

Customers outside the Ludgate Hill, central London branch of William Hill. Photo: PA
Customers outside the Ludgate Hill, central London branch of William Hill. Photo: PA

Henry Saker-Clark

William Hill has seen half-year profits cut by almost half after the bookmaker was hammered by the UK Government's crackdown on fixed-odds betting terminals (FOBTs).

The betting giant saw adjusted pre-tax profits plunge 47pc to £50.8m (€55m) for the six months to July 2019, after it was hit by the change in minimum stake, as well as heavy investment in the US.

The figures come weeks after the group announced plans to shutter 700 betting shops across the UK, putting 4,500 jobs at risk.

William Hill said it had to cut jobs in response to the UK Government's decision to slash the maximum stake on the controversial FOBTs from £100 to £2 in April, which has weakened the bookmakers' sales.

Despite the policy change, the company saw revenues edge higher, moving up 1pc to £811.7m (€880m) for the six-month period.

The company said it was buoyed by "strong" growth in the US, as it looks move away from its high dependence on the UK market.

Nevertheless, it said its profits were hit by heavy investment into expanding overseas, which also included the £245m (€266m) acquisition of Swedish bookmaker Mr Green earlier this year.

In the UK, William Hill saw online revenues slide by 1pc as it was affected by "weaker sports results" over the period.

Chief executive Philip Bowcock said: "We are making good progress against the five-year strategy we outlined last year, delivering strong revenue growth in the US and other international markets and positioning William Hill well for future growth.

"In retail, we took the tough decision to announce a consultation process over the proposed closure of around 700 shops to protect the long-term future of the business following the introduction of the £2 stake limit.

"The response of our colleagues has been incredibly professional during this difficult time and I would like to thank each and every one of them for that."

The company added that it made progress in collaborating with other major gambling firms over measures to "enhance safer gambling and address public concerns".

PA Media

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