William Hill Reports 90 Percent US Downturn, Promises to ‘Power Up Quickly’ When Sports Resume

Posted on: May 15, 2020, 12:36h. 

Last updated on: May 15, 2020, 01:52h.

William Hill’s US operations have lately been hailed as the antidote to regulatory headwinds in its native UK, but apparently not during a global pandemic.

William Hill Reopening
William Hill said Friday it planned a staggered reopening of its UK sports betting shops in the second half of the year. (Image: Irish Times)

The British bookmaker said in a Friday morning earnings call that the wholesale cancellation of sports across the world has seen revenues tumble by 90 percent in the US in the six weeks between March 11 and April 28.

Globally, operations fell 57 percent, year on year, while the total amount bet on sports was down 70 percent across the board.

William Hill is the market-leading sports book operator in Nevada, and has made significant inroads into other US states since the US Supreme Court’s rejection of the federal prohibition on sports betting. The company has established operations in Delaware, Indiana, Iowa, Mississippi, New Jersey, New Mexico, Rhode Island, and West Virginia.

Fringe Sports

But William Hill chief executive Ulrik Bengtsson told analysts that the figures could have been worse. The drop in betting volume across all operations was, in fact, less severe than the company had predicted. That’s due to customers unexpectedly embracing some of the few sports still occurring, such as Ukrainian table tennis.

Meanwhile, Belarusian soccer’s refusal to bow down to the coronavirus has seen it unexpectedly thrust onto the world stage.

Once elite sports leagues around the world resume their operations, William Hill will be quick to “power up,” Bengtsson said, adding that the company had “accelerated product developments in the US” during lockdown.

The resumption of the Bundesliga — Germany’s top tier soccer league — as well as French horse racing was an “encouraging development,” he added.

We reacted quickly to the cancellation of sports activities and the closure of our retail estate,” Bengtsson said. “We took immediate measures to save costs, reduce cash outflow, and minimize non-essential expenditure by negotiating with our suppliers, cancelling pay rises and executive bonuses, and suspending the dividend.

“We have preserved liquidity and amended the terms of our net debt covenant, leading to significant, balance sheet headroom. This will enable us to continue to invest for growth, most notably in the US, as plans there to roll out sports betting continue apace,” he added.

UK Retail Outlets to Reopen

William Hill also said it plans a staggered reopening of its UK chain of 2,000 retail betting outlets in the second half of the year. It closed all outlets at the end of March when the UK’s lockdown came into effect.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s administration initiated a conditional easing of lockdown measures from Wednesday, which allowed for unlimited outdoor exercise and garden centers, outdoor playgrounds, tennis courts, and golf courses — but not betting shops — to reopen.

Meanwhile, in Nevada, William Hill has been forced to get creative. Last week, it announced it would be offering drive-thru sports book services at four location in the state.