William Hill’s aspirations to become a major force in the US sports betting sector took on a whole new dimension this week when its UK counterpart posted an £820m pre-tax loss for the 26 weeks to June 27. A year earlier the story was significantly different with the betting firm showing a £93m profit.
The dire news was delivered alongside talk of widespread shop closures and further impairment charges, all due to the British government’s decision to cut the maximum stake on FOBTs to £2. Although the full extent of the effects of the stake cut remain an unknown quantity, Hill anticipates profits being slashed by up to £100m annually.
Already active in America with its William Hill US brand, the company will be eyeing potential opportunities stateside with increased intent. Philip Bowcock, CEO of the UK arm, explained: “William Hill has performed well during the first half of 2018 and, following major regulatory decisions in the UK and US, we now have greater clarity over the challenges and opportunities that lie before us. In the US, we have moved quickly following the repeal of PASPA as we grow into newly regulating states. We will continue to invest in the US to ensure we are well placed to capture the substantial potential available to us.”
The company has moved quickly, securing sportsbook deals with 11 casinos in Mississippi and one in West Virginia, with more expected to follow. It was also responsible for taking the first bet to be placed in New Jersey at its Monmouth Park sportsbook in June, and has launched a new sportsbook at Ocean Casino in Atlantic City. Later this month it expects to reveal a mobile offering.
Of immediate concern, however, is the fate of the bookie’s 2,334-strong UK estate with 900 of its shops thought to be on the verge of loss-making, putting 4,500 jobs at risk. “We assume that all shops that become loss-making will be closed, other than a sample of shops which are estimated to only make small losses compared to much larger shop closure costs and therefore would be kept open until their lease expiry,” it said.