William Hill says it is ‘on track’ after 700 betting shop closures


William Hill has said it remains “on track” to hit forecasts after closing 700 of its betting shops following the Government crackdown on fixed odds betting terminals (FOBTs).

The gambling giant closed the stores, which it said would impact 4,500 jobs, during the past 17 weeks as it sought to mitigate the impact of the reduction of the FOBT minimum stake to £2 from £100.

William Hill said the legislative change heavily impacted its UK retail business, driving like-for-like sales in the division down by 16% since the previous half year.

Investors in the gambling sector have become particularly sensitive to regulatory change in recent months, with shares in William Hill slipping earlier this month after a group of MPs called for stricter legislation for online gambling.

Overall revenues across the listed firm increased by 1% over the period as it was buoyed by growth online and in the US market.

UK online revenues increased by 4%, while total online revenues jumped by 19% from July 3 to the end of October.

Meanwhile, the company reported a 60% revenue increase in the US, driven by its rapid expansion in the country after states were permitted to enact sports betting laws in 2018.

The turbulent period for William Hill also saw its previous chief Philip Bowcock stand down in September, to be replaced by Ulrik Bengtsson, who was previously the company’s chief digital officer.

Mr Bengtsson said: “We have remodelled the UK retail estate, while the UK online business has benefited from a series of customer-facing improvements evidenced in the stabilising market share in the last two quarters.

“In addition, we expect our international online business to benefit from a number of important product improvements that will be delivered over the coming quarters.

“We undoubtedly have great people and a shared vision at William Hill. Our job now is to push on and do even better in terms of customer focus and execution.”

Shares in the company fell 0.1% to 178.8p in early trading.