William Hill to close 119 UK betting shops

by Ethan Anderson Last Updated
William Hill

Popular bookmaker William Hill said it is shutting 119 betting shops in the UK.

Yahoo News reports the company, which has 1,500 UK outlets said it did not expect customers to return in the numbers seen before the COVID-19 pandemic.

It said about 300 staff were impacted and most had been redeployed elsewhere.

William Hill said it is repaying 24.5 million pounds of UK furlough funds as trade has recovered well post-lockdown.

Its comments come as it reported pre-tax profits of 141 million pounds in the first six months of 2020, compared with a loss of 63 million pounds last year.

Its revenues fell by a third though, to 554 million pounds, reflecting the impact of lockdown and so many sporting events cancelled.

William Hill employs 7,000 people in the UK and a further 5,000 people in 9 other countries.

In a statement, the bookmaker said: “We anticipate that longer term retail footfall will not return to pre-COVID levels and 119 UK shops will remain closed following early lease breaks, with the majority of colleagues redeployed within the estate.”

Fewer than 20 people will not be redeployed.

The company said trading had been strong before the pandemic, but when the lockdown came in, it had controlled costs “effectively” and was recovering well.

Its presence on the High Street and town centres was already receding.

Last year, William Hill said it was cutting 700 shops after new regulations cut the size of a stake in fixed-odds betting terminals, gaming machines in shops, from 100 pounds to 2 pounds.

Partner at Begbies Traynor Julie Palmer said a spike in bored consumers trying online gaming provided some respite and much-needed revenue for the company to target.

“The business will need to continue developing its technology platform and product offering if it is to regain some of the lost revenue from the past few months, in what is a competitive market.”

William Hill plans to expand further in the US, where new opportunities are arising as the country’s previously strict gambling rules are relaxed in some states.

It said its international online business grew 17 per cent and added it now had almost a third of all US sports betting.

Chief executive Ulrik Bengtsson said: “I am delighted with William Hill’s performance in these extraordinary times. Our team has been remarkable, supporting each other and our customers throughout the pandemic.”

“The furlough scheme provided welcome and timely support, and meant we could protect the jobs of our 7,000 UK retail colleagues. Therefore, given the strength of our recovery post-lockdown, we have decided to repay the furlough funds.”

Bookies lining up to purchased WA TAB

There are some of the world’s leading bookmakers believed to be in the contest for the West Australian TAB, taking on the favourite Tabcorp.

Ladbrokes Coral and Beteasy are two said to be throwing their hat in the ring.

The Australian reported in December the sales process is understood to be into the second stage after first round bids were due on October 28.

Second round bids are due in January, and a sale is expected to be finalised in June.

The operation is likely to be sold for more than $300 million and if funding that is returned to the industry had been included, the price would be far higher.

Currently, Tabcorp has 44.6 per cent of the horse and sports betting market share in Australia, equating to $2.2 billion.

Paddy Power is the next biggest with 19.08 per cent ($973 million), followed by Racing and Wagering WA, 6.8 per cent ($334.1 million).

BetEasy has just over five per cent of the pie (5.4 per cent) for a $265.4 million slice of a near $5 billion annual revenue stream for the industry.

Global wagering groups such as Ladbrokes already operate in Australia out of the Northern Territory.

They have chosen that region for its tax benefits, but they have recently been offset by legal changes around the point-of-consumption tax for betting.

Australia is the second-largest regulated sports betting market in the world according to the report.

Ladbrokes Coral is British with its global base in London.

It has been subject to corporate activity in recent years, buying Gala Coral last year and then being bought by GVC Holdings.

BetEasy owns Crown’s former CrownBet business, which was purchased early last year for $150 million from The Stars Group.

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