After more than a decade of boosting profits with the £100 maximum stake on FOBTs, bookmaker William Hill has reined in it’s UK high-street ambition to the tune of £915 million.
While implementation of the new £2 maximum stake is lagging, bookmakers are beginning to account for the predicted loss of value to their high-street retail estate, revealing exactly how unlevel the playing field has been for competing AGCs.
In its latest financial update, William Hill revealed that £915 million was the value it assigned to its FOBT operation, without which, the bookmaker reported a £820 million loss for the first six months of the year. Taking away the £915 million accounting charge, William Hill would have made a profit of £96m – a figure the operator will be looking to grow thanks to the legalisation of sports betting in the USA. In fact, with William Hill’s UK high-street offer set to weaken, chief executive Philip Bowcock has said the company’s US operation could surpass its domestic business.
“In time, yes, depending on regulation, our US business could be bigger than the UK,” he commented. “The US population is seven times that of the UK and they like to gamble more, I think. Gambling is seen as part of everyday life, you’re not a social pariah if you enjoy it.”
Another warning for UK plc? The rhetoric suggests the British bookies are trading up and heading over to the States. No money from FOBTs, tax payments transferred from the UK to the US -the bookies certainly know how to play havoc with the mindset of number 11 Downing Street.