Monday 10 December 2018

Bookie-friendly results lift William Hill as it rolls the dice in US

The US may soon ease its regulations on bookies, providing an opening for William Hill.

William Hill is hoping to make gains in the US (PA)
William Hill is hoping to make gains in the US (PA)

By Helen Cahill, Press Association City Reporter

An “unprecedented” run of bookie-friendly results boosted William Hill in the first quarter, as the firm also ditched its underperforming Australian business.

The group’s net revenue grew 3%, boosted by a 12% rise in its online sales. Sportsbook and gaming revenues were up by 17% and 8% respectively in this part of the business.

Continued momentum in online and strong growth in the US have driven a good performance during the period Philip Bowcock, William Hill chief executive

However, retail sales dropped as weakness on the UK high street continued to drag on the business. Retail sales fell 4% in the quarter, with sportsbook revenue down by 9% and gaming sales flat.

Philip Bowcock, William Hill’s chief executive, said: “Continued momentum in online and strong growth in the US have driven a good performance during the period.

“In the UK, an unprecedented run of bookmaker-friendly sporting results led to unusual wagering and gaming trends, which we expect to normalise over time.”

William Hill’s performance in the US was particularly strong, with net revenues soaring 45%.

William Hill’s business remains relatively small across the pond because the US has tough regulation on sports betting. It is only legal in a handful of states.

However, the Supreme Court is currently reviewing the gambling legislation, and bookies are hopeful of a breakthrough.

“We are continuing to invest ahead of the Supreme Court’s decision to prepare for potential early regulation by certain states,” said Mr Bowcock.

William Hill’s success abroad has been mixed, however. On Tuesday, the firm said it had completed the sale of its Australian business on April 23.

CrownBet, a gaming giant in Australia, picked up the unit from William Hill for just over £170 million after profits came under pressure following a ban on offering credit to customers. Mr Bowcock said the sale had strengthened William Hill’s balance sheet.

Nicholas Hyett, equity analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown, said: “The house always wins, but sometimes it wins bigger than others.

“The first quarter has delivered William Hill with an ‘unprecedented run’ of bookmaker-friendly results, which combined with strength online, has helped to more than offset ongoing weakness on the UK high street.”

Press Association

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