William Hill Q1 Update Shows Strong U.S. Sports Betting Growth But Online Business Needs Attention

Written By Joss Wood on May 12, 2016
William Hill online betting focus

[toc]Leading UK bookmaker William Hill has issued a trading update for the first quarter of the year showing net revenues from its US business up by 38 percent.

Net revenues from the online business are down 11 percent, but a new Managing Director of Online, Crispin Nieboer, has been appointed to turn the business around.

Trading as expected but online sportsbook down 17%

Overall, trading has remained in line with previous full year expectations, which are for profits of £260 million ($376 million) to £280 million ($405 million). The optimism comes despite net revenues for the group being down by 3 percent.

Online sports betting made more than its fair share of a contribution to the decline. Revenues fell by 17%, “impacted primarily by losses at Cheltenham, customer-friendly European football results, and continued declines in non-core markets.”

The poor results from the Cheltenham horse racing meeting were also quoted as having a detrimental effect by Ladbrokes when it reported its Q1 results a fortnight ago.

William Hill CEO James Henderson commented:

It has been a tough start to the year in Online, which is being impacted by both regulatory change and a gross win margin below normalised levels for the period due to a disappointing Cheltenham festival and unfavourable European football results. Trends in recent weeks remain in line with the guidance we gave in March.

Online will get a remedial attention from its new boss

Nieboer took office on an interim basis in January, but he has now been confirmed in his new appointment. He is the founder of the Gaming Media Group, which included Poker Heaven and Mermaidbet.dk among its brands.

After selling to a venture capital group, Nieboer was picked up in August 2013 to be William Hill’s Director of Corporate Development & Innovation. The three areas which the trading update says he will be focused on are:

  • Product enhancements to ensure we offer the best customer experience – recent initiatives include the launch of one-minute markets for football and Cash In My Bet for horseracing, multi-language versions of the Trafalgar front-end and completion of the Android roll-out of Trafalgar;
  • Customer acquisition and yield – re-focusing our marketing activity to acquire and retain profitable customers through more efficient use of our affiliate and bonusing spend; and
  • International – targeting launches in new countries and adding additional local language sites in countries where we already operate.

Australian and U.S. markets growing well

William Hill’s main business is in the UK, but it has a strong presence in several European markets and in Australia. Its U.S. business is a smaller business unit, but is growing quickly.

In Australia, new accounts were up by 46% and overall amounts wagered increased by 10 percent — by 22 percent for the William Hill brand itself.

The U.S market saw 46 percent revenue growth when discounting the currency movements. Gross win margins increased slightly from 6.4 percent to 6.7 percent, helped by a better than expected performance over the Super Bowl weekend.

Sports betting expansion in Nevada

This week saw the news break that William Hill is expanding its Nevada sports betting business.

CEO of the U.S. business, Joe Asher, has signed a deal with Eldorado Resorts to upgrade and operate the race and sports books at the Silver Legacy Resort Casino and Circus Circus Hotel Casino.

The Eldorado Resort Casino’s race and sportsbook operation has been run by William Hill since it entered the Nevada market in 2012.

Joe Asher said:

We are thrilled to expand our relationship with Eldorado Resorts and the Carano family to bring the William Hill brand and enhanced betting product to the three largest resorts in Downtown Reno. The Caranos have always created best-in-class experiences for their customers and we are excited to invest in their properties.

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Joss Wood

Joss Wood, a former editor of Poker Industry Pro, has long focused on regulated online gambling issues and in particular the international market. For LegalSportsReport.com, Joss turns his attention primarily to regulated sports betting markets. With a degree in English from the University of Birmingham as well as a master’s degree in organisational development from the University of Manchester, Joss’s career has taken him from the British Army into the world of business and finance. For seven years he played poker professionally.

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