William Hill Says UK’s New COVID-19 Restrictions Will Cost Its Retail Sportsbooks £2m

  • Trending “volatile gross win margins” in UK sports from a fan ban is also hurting profits
  • Year-on-year revenue was down 9% in Q3, but was still a big improvement on the first half of 2020
  • William Hill’s US revenue was up 10%, with its live footprint extending into 14 states in Q3
William Hill betting shop in the UK
In its Q3 report, William Hill said its retail sportsbooks would lose £2m after the UK’s newest round of COVID-19 curbs. [Image: Shutterstock.com]

100 sportsbooks affected

Sportsbook William Hill announced in its Q3 report that a four-week lockdown of 100 of its UK retail shops under new COVID-19 regulations would wipe £2m (US$2.6m) from its operating profits.

According to The Guardian, 10% of William Hill’s retail footprint – which equates to around 140 brick-and-mortar sportsbooks – is located in regions where the COVID-19 alert level has been set to the “very high” tier three level.   

expects the virus fallout to deal its profits a double whammy

William Hill also said that while wagering income was gradually bouncing back to pre-pandemic proportions, it expects the virus fallout to deal its profits a double whammy. The first problem is obvious: the regional lockdowns. The second issue is the consequences of unpredictable results currently trending from sporting events played in stadiums without the psychological influence of fans.

In a tweet earlier this month, William Hill congratulated Aston Villa on their shocking 7-2 win over reigning English Premier League soccer champions Liverpool. The sportsbook, however, highlighted the unpredictability of the result based on Villa’s poor league form last season:

Sportsbooks rely on predictability to set favorable odds. Last season’s relegation fodder beating the champions so emphatically was anything but predictable. William Hill said it expected the “volatile gross win margins” to continue.

Not all doom and gloom

In the face of the continued pandemic onslaught, a few positives emerged from William Hill’s Q3 trading statement. Though third-quarter, year-on-year revenue was down 9%, it was a big improvement over the first six months of 2020, where H1 revenue was down 32% from 2019.

William Hill CEO Ulrik Bengtsson said: “We are very pleased with the trading performance of the Group […] we have moved the company forward”.

online performance looks on the soft side”

According to a Goodbody Stockbroker gaming and leisure analyst, however, while the company’s UK retail unit is performing relatively well, the “online performance looks on the soft side to us in comparison to what we have seen from peers lately.”

The owner of Ladbrokes, GVC Holdings, posted online growth of over 25% in its Q3 report released earlier this month.

Respite across the pond

William Hill’s Q3 statement also mentioned that it was engaging with the UK government, ahead of a potentially seismic 2005 Gambling Act reform “which we now expect to be launched in the coming weeks.”

With the UK betting review showdown imminent, William Hill’s £2.9bn ($3.7bn) takeover by Caesars Entertainment in late September and its Q3 performance in the US gives the sportsbook a rosier outlook.

William Hill’s US business revenue was up 10% while adding Colorado, Illinois, Michigan, and Washington D.C. to its live footprint across 14 states in the third quarter. It added Pennsylvania to the list in October when its Harrah’s Philadelphia Casino sportsbook opened. William Hill also said its mobile wagering growth in the US was robust, taking a 72% handle through mobile channels alone.

Further scope for William Hill’s media and digital growth comes from a co-exclusive deal its sports betting partner Caesars signed with ESPN and an exclusive deal inked with CBS earlier this year. In addition to having two giant US media brands in its locker, William Hill also acquired Cantor sportsbooks and began integrating them into Caesar’s in-person retail sportsbooks.

The Q3 report said that, once fully integrated into Caesars’ sportsbooks, it will operate in over 170 venues across 15 states.