GIVEN THAT THE DEMAND FOR IN-PERSON BETTING HAS DECLINED POST-LOCKDOWN, WILLIAM HILL HAS MOVED TO SHUT DOWN 119 OF ITS BETTING SHOPS. HOWEVER, THE COMPANY IS STILL OPTIMISTIC ABOUT RECOVERY AFTER ANNOUNCING ITS H1 2020 REVENUE.
William Hill plc, the London-based sports betting giant announced that it would not be reopening 119 of its High Street retail betting facilities in the UK after the pandemic induced shutdowns. In the announcement, a company representative attributed the move to the fact that they were not expecting business to return to the normalcy of pre-pandemic numbers. Nevertheless, even with the betting shop closures, CEO Ulrik Bengtsson still expressed optimism for a brighter post-lockdown future as reopening plans across Great Britain continue.
This decision to close the 119 betting shops will affect about 300 workers, but the company indicated that most of the employees have already been reassigned to different positions elsewhere in the company. Currently, William Hill has over 12,000 employees spanning across 10 countries, with a workforce of 7,000 for the UK, its primary base of operations.
Revenue Growth in the Face of the Pandemic
On top of announcing the closure of its retail kiosks, William Hill also reported its H1 2020 numbers. As expected, they weren’t looking too good given that all betting shops in the region had been closed for nearly 3 months on government orders, and due to the cancellation of sporting events, online players hardly had any valid options to wager on during the pandemic closure period.
The sports betting leviathan disclosed that in total, it had raked in $185 million in profit before taxes for H1, compared to an $83.8 million loss that it had incurred for the first 6 months of 2019. Besides, even though the sportsbook trendsetter still has a good footing on its general numbers, the overall sports betting revenue for the first half of 2020 slid to $727.9 million, after experiencing a 32% decline. The adjusted operating profit on the other had dropped by 85% to $15.5 million year-on-year.
But then, while the company took hefty Coronavirus hits on its operations for retail gaming facilities, online operations were a silver lining after undergoing some growth. Overall, the net revenue for interactive gaming for William Hill had a 1% increase after the proceeds for international online operations shot up by 17%. For the online revenue growth, the sportsbook operator acknowledges that it was as a result of several successful product launches and the slow but steady comeback of sporting events after pandemic lockdowns.
William Hill’s CEO also indicated that now that the company is on the road to recovery, they were in the process of paying back the $32 million furlough scheme that the UK government had lent them for cushioning in the wake of the pandemic.
Betting Shop Closures is Not New to William Hill
As devastating as the betting shop closures may seem, this is not the first time that William Hill has faced a rough time for its kiosks. While the bottom line wasn’t drastically affected, the company suffered a similar blow in 2019 after the British government moved to decrease the acceptable betting limit on FOBTs (fixed-odds betting terminals) from £100 to £2 only. This change in regulatory climate forced the sports betting guru to close down a total of 710 betting kiosks in the region after the new law came into effect on 1st April 2019.
As a result of the permanent closure of the betting shops last year and this year, and selling some more shops in Isle of Man and Northern Ireland to BoyleSports, William Hill is now left with 1,414 shops, down from 2,306 at the start of 2019.
Meanwhile, the sports betting frontrunner continues to spread its footprint in the burgeoning USA market with a presence in Mississippi, Nevada, New Jersey, Illinois, Colorado, and most recently, the District of Columbia.