William Hill are widely regarded as one of the biggest and oldest bookmakers in the world. They have been about since 1934 and started life as a betting operator providing postal and telephone bets.
The company has evolved a lot since then, but it’s been their ever-presence within the high streets that has really made the company a household name. they currently occupy over 2,300 betting shops, employing over 16,000 people and with revenue figures surpassing £1.6billion in 2016.
High Street Betting Shops
William Hill still has a huge high street presence, even today. With over 2,300 shops, they are said to have over 25% of the market within the UK and are regarded as they largest UK operator. What’s interesting about this is whilst they are still standing strong in an industry that is reducing rapidly, they also still provide telephone betting, a trade that is again starting to die away in this modern era. In 2007, the company reported that they took over 125,000 bets on the Grand National in a single day, a record for this form of betting.
William Hill have always been one for being innovative within the betting industry and have taken a keen stance to help punters whoa re vulnerable to both high street and online gambling. In 2010 they launched a campaign to train over 10,000 members of their staff that worked in high street shops to be able to spot and help punters that they thought could have gambling problems. This was widely welcomed from the powers that be within the industry and a real trendsetter for other bookmakers to follow.
The company have been able to thrive in a sector of the industry that is struggling. They have used their global brand recognition to acquire a large number of betting shops from other competitors. Their biggest acquisition to date came about in 2005 when they purchased 624 betting shops for £504million from Stanley Leisure.
But, this sale didn’t quite go to plan as they were alter forced to sell 78 of these shops due to concerns over anti-competitive practices, which essentially means that they had too much of the market share on the high street.
There have also been one or two controversial moments within the past for the high street stores of William Hill. The Trade union had to step in at point after reports that William Hill shops were vastly under staffed and allowing them to open with just one member of staff, even at busy times. There were also reports of underpaid staff to add to their issues, so in attempt to get things back on tack they enlisted the help of George Howarth MP who assisted them not only internally, but also financially with spiralling debts reaching as big as £1.5billion.
On the Internet
The online bookmaker has allowed the company to grow even further and now equates for more than half of their total turnover. The website has always been on that fairly solid and in terms of design has been pretty good to use. We do have to admit that these days the site is looking a little dated though and with the redesign of their PLC site, we would expect the bookmaker to follow suit soon.
The site does come packed with features though and we feel that they are one of the best when it comes to an all-round betting experience. The standout for us has to be the live streaming channel, that can be accessed by all active accounts. The number of games and streams that are on offer these days is continuing to grow, making it one of the best in the business.
As one of the biggest brands you are going to be able to access a number of different banking methods as well. Unfortunately there is nothing to link up your account to that of your high street betting account, but as this is becoming more common with the likes of Coral and Ladbrokes, we wouldn’t be surprised to see something come in in the not too distant future.
About William Hill
The company was set up by its founder, William Hill, in 1934. As betting was still outlawed at this time, it was Hill who was one of the first pioneers of the postal betting system. They basically set up post boxes at the end of streets throughout the UK and took bets that way. They employed runners to collect the best and also pay out any winnings. It was widely regarded that by 1960 the company had over 500,000 punters all using their betting services.
By 1961 betting had no become legal and with it, Hill decided that it was time to expand their empire and start to purchase betting shops of their own. By 1966 they were buying shops of their own, but they were also able to acquire existing shops, which in a sense, were ready to go, taking over punters who were using the shop previously.
Unbeknown to most, Hill was actually a keen horse racing fanatic and whilst he was becoming one of the UK’s most successful betting brands, he also invested a lot of his time and money into horse racing ownership. He had a strong eye for potential horses, which included winners such as Nimbus in the 1949 2000 Guineas and The Derby. Other horses of note included Sezincote, Cantelo and Be Careful, all successful horses in their own right.
As the company grew throughout the sixties, it was dealt a massive blow when the owner, William Hill, died in 1971 after retiring just 12 months earlier. The company then became part of the Sears Holding Group who managed to grow the company to over 1,8000 betting shops across the UK by 1988.
In 1989 the company changed hands once again, this time to Brent Walker. They were already well established in the betting industry, having over 1,800 stores of their and were widely regarded as the biggest credit betting operation in the world. As the social stigma surrounding betting started to ease off during the 1990’s, the company started to flourish and were eventually bought out from Brent Walker but Monura in a deal worth £700million in 1997.
Nomura were the driving force behind William Hill’s online status and they quickly realised that this was the future of the gambling industry, launching the first edition of their sportsbook. But, just 2 years later, the company changed hands again, this time being sold to Cinven and CVC Partners for a deal wroth £825million after a proposed attempt to float the company on the stock market failed.
After many years of struggle, it was Conven and CVC partners that finally got the deal to get them live on the stock exchange, floating the company for a cool £1billion whilst doing so. The initial price of 225 pence per share was in fact oversubscribed over 10 times, highlighting their popularity of the deal.
Throughout the 2000s the company kept moving forward and saw substantial growth both online and on the high street. They were keen to expand the range of high street shops, so bought out that of Stanley Leisure PLC, acquiring over 600 betting shops in the process throughout the UK, Ireland, Jersey and Isle of Man.
The addition of an online casino in 2001, multi language betting site, acquisition of betting domains such as WillHill.com, new sportsbook technologies from Orbis and an online poker room in 2003 all were important factors into making William Hill the biggest gambling brand in the world by 2005.
The companies expansion didn’t stop though and they were famed for buying out successful dog racing tracks such as Sunderland Greyhound Stadium and Brough Park along with technology purchases such as that of PlayTech, who at the time were the world largest casino software provider.
As it stands the company now owns over 2,300 betting shops, has over 4 million downloads of their betting app, recorded record revenue numbers of £1.6bn in 2016, acquired sports betting brands SportingBet, Centrebet and Tom Waterhouse, before later branding them to William Hill Australia.
William Hill in the news
William Hill and Amaya abandon merger talks (18th October 2016) – William Hill and the biggest poker business in the world, Amaya have abandoned talks to create one of the biggest gambling products in the industry. In a potential deal that could have been wroth up to £4.5bn, the companies decided that a merger was not the right thing for both parties and decided to go their spate ways.
William Hill rejects £3.6bn takeover bid from Rank and 888 (9th August 2016) – In 2016 William Hill rejected an offer from Rank and 888 for the acquisition of their company in a bid worth over £3.6bn. The bid was described as “opportunistic” of both Rank and 888, stating that they felt the company was worth “much more” than the offer that was tabled.
William Hill profits hit by tax changes (7th August 2015) – Changes in betting tax has hit William Hill hard, with a decrease of 35% from the year previous. It’s stated that they paid an addition £44million in gambling duties, cutting their profits from £121.8million to ‘just’ £78.7million.