William Hill saw revenues rise in the first quarter, as favourable sporting results and a strong performance online and in the US more than offset a weaker UK high street.
The bookmaker, which has been trying to increasingly shift its focus online partly to avoid a looming crackdown on fixed odd betting machines in the UK, posted a 3 per cent rise in underlying revenues in the first quarter.
That’s despite poor performance on the UK high street, with retail sales down 4 per cent, sportsbook revenue down by 9 per cent and gaming sales flat.
But the bookmaker said gross win margins improved across all divisions thanks to ‘an unprecedented run of bookmaker-friendly results that led to unusual wagering and gaming trends’.
Shares in the group were 1.1 per cent higher at 282p.
William Hill continued to see a decline at its UK high street arm, with retail sales down 4 per
Online sales jumped 12 per cent, with sportsbook and gaming revenues up 17 per cent and 8 per cent respectively in this part of the business.
William Hill’s performance in the US was also particularly strong, with net revenues soaring 45 per cent.
The bookmaker is stepping up investment in the US ahead of a court ruling that could overturn a ban on sports betting in the coming months.
The Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act has outlawed betting on sport in all but Delaware, Montana, Nevada and Oregon since 1992.
Philip Bowcock, William Hill’s chief executive, said: ‘Continued momentum in online and strong growth in the US have driven a good performance during the period.
‘In the UK, an unprecedented run of bookmaker-friendly sporting results led to unusual wagering and gaming trends, which we expect to normalise over time.’
He added: ‘We are continuing to invest ahead of the Supreme Court’s decision to prepare for potential early regulation by certain states.’
William Hill also announced it had completed the sale of its Australian business on April 23 at a loss.
CrownBet, a gaming giant in Australia, picked up the unit from William Hill for just over £170million after profits came under pressure following a ban on offering credit to customers. Bowcock said the sale had strengthened William Hill’s balance sheet.
Nicholas Hyett, equity analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown said: ‘The house always wins, but sometimes it wins bigger than others. The first quarter has delivered William Hill with an ‘unprecedented run’ of bookmaker friendly results, which combined with strength online, has helped to more than offset ongoing weakness on the UK high street.
‘However, the really big numbers in this set of results are reserved for the relatively small US business.’
He added: ‘It’s worth bearing in mind though that the group is still feeling the effects of the last time it rolled the dice on international expansion and lost. The Australian business has now been sold, but has been a source of repeated downgrades in recent years. Having cost the group something in the region of £500m, the group will be glad to see the back of it, even at today’s sale price of a little over £170m.’