William Hill Announces Digital Expansion & Reopening of Physical Stores in the UK
This week, UK bookmaker and online casino operator William Hill announced a phased return of its high-street betting shops starting at the end of July, as well as dramatic improvements to its online presence in the UK.
Of all the gambling companies to have felt the pinch since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic that has now sadly killed over 300,000 people worldwide, William Hill has been amongst the most affected.
The bookmaker is based in the UK, which has the second-highest number of deaths in the world from the disease so far. This obviously affected not only physical operations but also its core market and staff, with the group’s headquarters located in Bloomsbury in the heart of London.
Since the 20th of March, all betting shops across the UK have been closed along with many other businesses. A week or so before that, nearly all sports activity had ceased, including huge sports betting markets, such as the football Premier League.
As we reported at the time, sports betting accounted for about 75% of William Hill’s yearly revenue, compared to about 50% with rival 888 Holdings, which gathers much far much more income from its online casino business.
Just a month ago, it was estimated that William Hill might lose out on up to £100 million from lost sports betting revenue alone.
Its US business took the hardest hit, losing up to 90% of revenue. That comes despite its use of innovative measures to get around physical store closures, such as opening drive-through locations for new customers to sign up in Nevada. In that state, customers are only allowed to bet online if they first sign up at a physical store.
Still, overall revenue fell by up to 57% across the firm’s multinational operations. Even in March, before physical lockdowns to tackle the spread of virus began to take effect across the world, overall revenue was down 5% year-on-year.
Those grim figures might have been behind the announcement of the company’s new digital pivot—especially considering it already closed 700 William Hill stores last year before the pandemic even hit the business.
Group CEO Ulrik Bengtsson was nevertheless bombastic and upbeat about his company’s outlook going into the second half of 2020 and 2021.
He started by praising the “excellent work of the William Hill team in their business, community and personal responses to the Covid19 pandemic’ and continued to laud the group’s remote working developers who have swiftly produced ‘a range of important new products, most notably a gaming front end to improve navigation and speed for the UK market.”
“Our international online business has performed very strongly. We have accelerated product developments in the US, in particular, to ensure we are well-positioned when sports activity reopens,” continued Mr. Bengtsson, who only took over in the role last year.
His words can be backed up by the growth of WH’s Online International division, which posted a 35% increase in revenue in March before the pandemic hit across the globe.
Lastly, Mr. Bengtsson also confirmed that William Hill still plans to debut its US online casino service in some states, and it will be coming sooner than expected—potentially before the end of 2020.
For more on this story and all the latest info on how the ongoing coronavirus pandemic is affecting gambling businesses and markets across the globe, keep checking our pages. And stay safe!