Online gamble paying off for Hill

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The roll-out of mobile and text betting paid off for bookie William Hill yesterday as it weathered a 4 per cent profits drop at its high street shops.

The group’s online operation recorded a second successive year of revenues growth in excess of 20 per cent after a significant jump in sports wagers, including a 75 per cent rise in the value of bets placed while events are in progress.

Even without a major football tournament and including a £9m rise in VAT payments due to last January’s rate change, William Hill said its underlying profits rose 9 per cent to £239.4m in 2011.

It said its retail arm produced a resilient performance, with amounts wagered up 6 per cent but profits down 4 per cent to £196.8m following a run of unfavourable results, mainly in football. The amount generated by gaming machines was up 9 per cent.

The retail arm’s fortunes have improved since the turn of the year, with its win margin up from last year’s 16.8 per cent to 18.1 per cent, although February’s adverse weather meant amounts wagered slowed to show 2 per cent growth.

The online division has continued to trade well, it added, with revenues up 30 per cent in the first seven weeks of the year, including 64 per cent growth in its sportsbook. Profits from the division in 2011 rose 17 per cent to £106.8m.

The company said: “Our goal is to make it easy for customers to access our products wherever and whenever they want to gamble.”

William Hill employs more than 15,000 people and is the UK’s largest bookmaker with 2,370 betting offices.