William Hill celebrates US betting growth as UK stagnates


william-hill-us-sports-betting-growthUK bookmaker William Hill says it’s weathering the new restrictions on its retail gaming operations, thanks to a strong online and US market performance.

On Wednesday, Hills issued a trading statement covering the 17 weeks through April 30, during which it says overall revenue is up 2% compared to the first 17 weeks of 2018. The company maintains that the numbers are more impressive than they look, given the additional regulatory requirements imposed in its core UK market.

Retail revenue was down 7%, as a 2% rise in sports betting revenue wasn’t enough to offset a 15% decline in machine gaming. On April 1, the UK’s new £2 max stake on fixed-odds betting terminals (FOBTs) took effect, and the early indications were that UK betting operators weren’t handling the transition all that well.

Hills CEO Philip Bowcock (pictured) said the impact has been “in line with our expectations” and the company remains “confident in our plan to manage this major change.” That said, the company admitted it would likely be “several months before any meaningful conclusions can be drawn” from this major disruption in its business model.

Online revenue improved 8%, with a 28% rise in gaming revenue offsetting an 11% fall in betting. On a pro forma basis, i.e. eliminating contributions from the Mr Green acquisition, online revenue was actually down 6%.

The situation was far brighter on the other side of the Atlantic, as William Hill US reported wagering handle doubling and revenue rising 48% (+39% in local currency) following last spring’s Supreme Court ruling striking down the federal sports betting prohibition. Hills is now active in seven legal betting states, and even the existing Nevada wagering business reported revenue up 6% during the period.

Investors were less impressed with Hills’ US success, pushing the stock down 2.6% at the close of Wednesday’s trading.