Appetite for online sports betting gives boost to William Hill

William Hill said new gaming machines and demand for bets during sporting events helped it deliver a sharp rise in profits.

The bookmaker, which employs 16,000 people and has 2,350 betting offices, reported “outstanding growth” from online operations and said its retail division made a positive contribution despite consumer uncertainty.

Operating profits rose 7 per cent to £276.8m in the year to December 28 after revenues lifted 7 per cent to £1.07bn. Including one-off items, pre-tax profits jumped 60 per cent to £193.3m.

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In its second year of operation, William Hill Online saw revenues leap 24 per cent to £251.5m after it benefited from strong growth in sports betting, with amounts wagered up 57 per cent year-on-year. This included a 114 per cent rise from in-play betting after William Hill ramped up its offering with the support of adverts during televised fixtures.

Amounts wagered in betting shops grew 8 per cent year-on-year after the roll-out of new gaming machines helped offset a 3 per cent drop in over-the-counter stakes.

Favourable football results, particularly in the second half of the year, resulted in a gross win margin for the firm of 17.9 per cent, at the top end of its normal trading range.

Operating profits from the company’s retail estate increased 1 per cent to £204.5m, while online profits rose 22 per cent to £91.1m.

The company said the strong trading performance continued into the new financial year, with the amounts wagered in the retail business up 12 per cent and the online division still trading strongly.

Analyst Paul Leyland of Investec Securities said he planned to leave his profit forecast unchanged due to current economic uncertainty and higher VAT, as well as the absence of a major football tournament this year.