Football results hit William Hill’s 2014 profits

William Hill had a difficult start to the year
William Hill had a difficult start to the year
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​Bookmaker William Hill ​reported a difficult start to the year after a bad weekend of football results cost it £13​m.

The firm, which has 2,362 betting shops, took the hit when all the favourites in the Premier League won on the middle weekend in January apart from Manchester City.

It added that this one loss-making week of customer-friendly football results had left it behind on its internal expectations to date.

The business, which also runs operations in Australia, the US and Europe, said pre-tax profits for last year fell ​nine per cent​ to £233.9​m following a number of other adverse results as well as £83.4​m​ of exceptional charges largely relating to an earlier acquisition.

The firm said it had a record World Cup generating £226.8​m of bets and added that comparisons were impacted by favourable results a year earlier.

William Hill said it ​is confident of meeting its full-year expectations in 2015.

The group is a major employer in Yorkshire with 3,000 staff, including 1,300 in Leeds.​

Earlier this month William Hill’s £709​m bid to buy online rival 888 collapsed because it could not agree a price with its major shareholders.

The gaming sector is facing pressure over controls on betting shops and gaming machines. Shares across the industry slumped last year as bookies were hit with a surprise hike in gaming machine duty in the Budget.

The group closed 108 shops in the year and opened 52, in response to the hike in gaming machine duty to 25​ per cent​ on March 1, but it said gaming machine revenues were ​six per cent​ higher at £461.7​m over the period as it rolled out its next-generation Eclipse machines to half of its estate by the third quarter of the year. By the end of the year it had rolled out 70​ per cent​ of these new machines across its stores.

The bookmaker added that online gaming revenues ​rose 17 per cent to £274.1​m.