William Hill Profits Dip Following US Expansion and UK Challenges

Aug 07

Bookmaker William Hill has suffered a year-on-year dip in their adjusted operating profit for the first half of 2019. They have attributed this loss to the recent challenges they faced concerning their fixed-odds betting terminals (FOBTs) in the UK, as well as the costs associated with their expansion efforts in the United States.

Retail is still the biggest income earner for William Hill, accounting for 48% of their overall revenue, although they did slip by 12% in retail. The bookmaker said the 12% slip is the direct result of the new FOBT rules implemented in April, whereby consumers can only stake a maximum of £2 per spin. Before the implementation of the new rules, consumers could stake as much as £100 per spin.

Online gambling is closing the gap on retail, as it now accounts for 45% of William Hill’s total group revenue. But even from this part of the business, news isn’t all good. Gaming revenue may have increased by 37%, but online sportsbook revenue dipped by 7%. Their UK online revenue also dropped 1%, although international online revenue more than made up for that by jumping 66%.

Despite the losses, the bookmaker remains positive, having already taken action to combat the changes in FOBT rules and continuing with plans to further expand their business in the U.S. Chief Executive Philip Bowcock is happy with the strong revenue growth they posted in the U.S. and other international markets, saying this shows that they’re making excellent progress in the five-year strategy they outlined last year.

“We continue to expand rapidly in the U.S., both in Nevada and in the new states, with over $1 billion wagered with us in the first half,” Bowcock said. “We are now live in eight states and will expand into at least two more states in H2. Online international revenues have grown strongly, up 66% with the acquisition of Mr. Green. We are becoming more diversified with non-UK markets now contributing a third of online revenues, up from just 24% last year.”

“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,” Bowcock added. He further emphasized their commitment to responsible gambling, saying that their long-term ambition is to ensure that no one is harmed by gambling. “The voluntary whistle-to-whistle ban has begun and we have, together with other leading operators, committed to a significant increase in funding for safer gambling measures, including for treatment. We continue to work on additional measures to protect our customers and lead the regulatory agenda,” he said.

Furthermore, despite the recent slump in their overall financial results, William Hill is not giving up on their goal of achieving double-profits by 2023. They say they are still on track to achieve the targets they have set for themselves, in spite of the recent setback. They acknowledge that their ambitious undertaking, particularly the U.S. expansion, will take time, especially in light of legal and technical challenges, but the bookmaker is determined to see their plans come to complete fruition.