William Hill (bookmaker)

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William Hill plc
Traded as LSEWMH
Industry Gambling
Founded 1934
Headquarters Wood Green, London, UK
Leeds, UK
Key people
Gareth Davis (Chairman of the board), James Henderson (CEO)[1]
Products Bookmaking, betting shops, online gambling
Revenue £1,486.5 million (2013)[2]
£324.1 million (2013)[2]
Profit £226.5 million (2013)[2]
Number of employees
17,000 (2013)[3]
Website www.williamhill.com

William Hill plc is one of the largest bookmakers in the United Kingdom. It is listed on the London Stock Exchange and is a constituent of the FTSE 250 Index. As of 2 August 2013, it was listed as having a market capitalisation value of £4.07bln.[4]


The company was founded by William Hill in 1934 at a time when gambling was illegal in Britain.[5] It changed hands many times, being acquired by Sears Holdings in 1971,[6] then by Grand Metropolitan in 1988, then by Brent Walker in 1989.[5]

In September 1996, Brent Walker recouped £117m of the £685m it had paid for William Hill when Grand Metropolitan were found to have exaggerated the company's profits at the time of the sale.[7]

Japanese investment bank Nomura mounted a £700m leveraged buyout of William Hill in 1997, when Brent Walker collapsed with debts exceeding £1.3bn[8] after an investigation by the Serious Fraud Office which saw two directors given jail sentences.[9][10]

In February 1999, a proposed stock market flotation was abandoned due to "weak interest"[11] and Nomura offloaded the company to funds managed by private equity firms Cinven and CVC Capital Partners for £825m instead.[5]

The company was eventually listed on the London Stock Exchange in 2002.[5] The following year Chief Executive David Harding was awarded a £2.84m bonus, making him the UK's fifth highest paid company director in 2003.[12]

It acquired Sunderland Greyhound Stadium in 2002 and Newcastle Greyhound Stadium in 2003.[5]

In June 2004, Chief Executive David Harding sold £5.2m of shares to fund his divorce, precipitating a decline in the company's stock that wiped £75m off the value of the company.[13][14]

In 2005, William Hill bought 624 betting offices in the UK, Republic of Ireland, Isle of Man and Jersey from Stanley Leisure for £504 million: the acquisition briefly took the company past Ladbrokes into first position in the UK betting market[15] in terms of shops but not revenue. The Office of Fair Trading made William Hill sell 78 of the 624 Stanley shops due to concerns over anti-competitive practices.[16]

Amidst fears that William Hill had overpaid for the Stanley shops,[17] the company was relegated from the FTSE 100 Index in December 2005.[18]

In 2008, Ralph Topping was appointed Chief Executive. After having dropped out of Strathclyde University as a self-confessed 'rascal',[19] Topping had taken a Saturday job at a William Hill betting shop near Hampden Park, Glasgow, in 1973 and worked his way up through the ranks.[19]

In November 2008, William Hill went into partnership with Orbis (latterly OpenBet), and Israeli software company Playtech, to remedy its own failing[20] online operation.[21]

Under the terms of the deal, William Hill paid Playtech's founder Teddy Sagi £144.5m for various assets and affiliate companies.[22] These included several online casino sites which William Hill continues to run under the name WHG. Playtech took a 29% stake in the new William Hill Online entity.[21]

The company wrote-off a reported £26m when scrapping their previous in-house system.[23][24] In June 2009 William Hill backed Playtech despite their partner having a quarter of its stock market value wiped out following a profits warning.[25]


A William Hill turf accountants in Headingley, Leeds.

The company operates worldwide, employing approximately 16,601 people with main offices in the UK, Republic of Ireland and Gibraltar, offering betting by phone and Internet together with their 2300 UK-wide Licensed Betting Offices. They are the largest UK operator, representing around 25 per cent of the market throughout the UK and Ireland. Its telebetting call centres, which are located in Rotherham, South Yorkshire took 125,000 bets on the 2007, Grand National and according to the company its betting shops process more than one million betting slips on an average day.[26]

In addition to its online sportsbook operations, the company offers online casino games, 'skill games', online bingo and online poker. Since the Gambling Act 2005,[27] gaming machines have strengthened profits to counteract falling revenues in other areas.[28][29]

William Hill ran their very own cable TV channel in 2004 which lasted two years, and now offer a in-house live visual broadcast direct to their Betting Offices. This is filmed in the Leeds studios and, running in tandem with the shop radio output, offers a unique service to prospective punters.

In August 2010, William Hill launched a training programme for its 10,000+ workforce to combat underage gambling in its retail outlets.[30]

The company has been criticised by Community (trade union) and Unite (trade union) for its treatment of shop-workers.[31][32] In particular the practices of exposing staff to risk by forcing them to work in the offices alone,[32] and requiring staff to undertake unpaid work after the end of their working day[33] have been identified.

In November 2008, analysts at UBS noted "concern" at the Company's level of debt,[34] which stood at over £1bn[35] and was later reported as £1.5bn.[36] In 2009 the company enacted both a rights issue and a corporate bond issue, in an effort to restructure its debt.[35]

From 2001 until 2009, William Hill paid George Howarth MP £30,000 pa. to act as a Parliamentary advisor. While on William Hill's payroll he tabled amendments to the 2003 budget proposing tougher levels of taxation for person-to-person betting exchanges.[37][38] Howarth left the role in the wake of the 2009 expenses scandal.[39]

William Hill Media[edit]

The company's news site acts as a sister channel to the Sportsbook, featuring online sports and horseracing interviews, features and other content.

William Hill offers a variety of interactive media formats through their shops and over the Internet. A real-time horse racing channel, William Hill Radio, has been in existence for over ten years, broadcasting live commentaries, news and previews. Various audio and visual podcasts can be downloaded from both the news site and iTunes. In June 2010, William Hill expanded to cover the sports betting sector with In-Play Radio.

William Hill broadcasts daily to its UK-wide betting shops - a first in gaming and betting promotion, this is produced live from the studios in the Leeds office.

Outside the United Kingdom[edit]

In 2009, William Hill moved its online and fixed-odds games division to Gibraltar, for tax avoidance purposes.[40][41] In Gibraltar William Hill is a member of the Gibraltar Betting and Gaming Association[42] The company's online operation had previously been based in the Dutch Antilles tax haven, until a 2007 change in the law banned non EEA-based gambling companies from advertising in the UK.[43]

In March 2009, William Hill closed 14 of its shops in the Republic of Ireland with the loss of 53 jobs.[44] In February 2010 it announced that the remaining 36 Irish shops were 'under review'[45] pending the possible introduction of controversial[27] gaming machines to Irish shops.

William Hill had pulled out of Italy in 2008 after just two years, a failure which cost the company £1m in wasted investment.[46] The company's joint venture in Spain ended in January 2010 with partners Codere buying William Hill's 50% stakeholding for €1,[47] after both parties had invested an 'initial' €10m in April 2008.[48] William Hill lost £11.6m in 2008 and £9.3m in 2009 on the venture.[49]

In September 2009, the company participated in the bidding for the first online gambling licence in India, expressing their interest to enter the Indian betting market via the remote Himalayan state of Sikkim.[50]

In June 2012, William Hill expanded to Nevada, the only U.S. state to allow full-fledged sports wagering,[51] buying three chains of sportsbooks: Lucky's, Leroy's, and the satellite operations of Club Cal Neva, for a total of $53 million.[52] The deals at the time gave the company control of 55 percent of the state's sportsbook locations, and 11 percent of statewide revenue.[51] All three chains were be rebranded under the William Hill name.[52]

In 1 February 2015, William Hill is leaving Singapore to comply with the Remote Gambling Act, and there will be a warning to indicate that in Singapore, gambling under William Hill is forbidden.[53]


In 2007, William Hill threatened to withdraw its sponsorship of various horse races, in their dispute with racecourses over TurfTV.[54] William Hill, who had been the strongest critic of TurfTV, were later forced into a humiliating climbdown and subscribed to the channel in January 2008.[55]

In August 2009, William Hill became the shirt-sponsor of Málaga CF, a football team in Spain's La Liga.[56]

The company sponsors the annual William Hill Sports Book of the Year award. This is "dedicated to rewarding excellence in sports writing".[57]


In May 2008, The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) banned William Hill from running a television advert which they found 'condoned gambling behaviour that was socially irresponsible'.[58]

In October 2009, the ASA banned a poster and National press advert which promised '£100 OF FREE BETS'. The advert was found to be 'likely to mislead' and in breach of a Committee of Advertising Practice code relating to 'truthfulness'.[59]

In March 2010, an advert stating 'William Hill best prices FACT' was banned by the ASA. It had breached several Committee of Advertising Practice codes, including those relating to 'substantiation', 'truthfulness' and 'honesty'.[60]

In September 2011, William Hill made an TV advert featuring the 2005 single "A Bit Patchy".[61]

In December 2012, adverts stating "Best Prices on the Best Horses" and "Best Prices on the Best Teams" were banned by the ASA. It had breached several Committee of Advertising Practice code, including those relating to 'misleading advertising', 'Substantiation' and 'Comparisons'. The ASA also banned a different advert claiming "Best Odds Guaranteed" because it was misleading.[62]


  1. ^ William Hill: CEO Designate announcement
  2. ^ a b c "Preliminary Results 2013" (PDF). William Hill. Retrieved 15 March 2014. 
  3. ^ William Hill: At a glance
  4. ^ William Hill: Key facts
  5. ^ a b c d e William Hill: History
  6. ^ Richard Davenport-Hines, ‘Clore, Sir Charles (1904–1979)’ Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004
  7. ^ "BRENT WALKER RECOUPS POUNDS 117M FROM BETTING STAKE OF SEVEN YEARS AGO", The Observer, London, 29 September 1996
  8. ^ "Brent walker group plc: disposal of william hill and delisting". Brent Walker Group. Retrieved 2010-04-13. 
  9. ^ Cope, Nigel (1996-12-07). "Ex-Goldcrest director jailed over cover-up". The Independent (London). Retrieved 2010-04-13. 
  10. ^ Farrelly, Paul (1996-09-29). "SFO launches third Brent Walker fraud trial". The Independent (London). Retrieved 2010-04-13. 
  11. ^ "BOOKIE CITY PLAN FALLS AT FINAL HURDLE", Sunday Mirror, London, 21 February 1999
  12. ^ Business & Media: Business: Top 10 highest paid directors, The Observer, London, 1 February 2004
  13. ^ "Wm Hill defends statement timing as shares fall again", The Guardian, London, 7 July 2004
  15. ^ "William Hill buys Stanley shops" BBC News, 16 May 2005
  16. ^ Wallop, Harry (2005-08-03). "William Hill ordered to sell 78 shops". The Telegraph (London). Retrieved 2010-04-12. 
  17. ^ Stevenson, Rachel (2005-05-17). "William Hill becomes UK's biggest bookie". The Independent (London). Retrieved 2010-04-13. 
  18. ^ "Wm Hill defies relegation". Yorkshire Post. Retrieved 2010-04-13. 
  19. ^ a b Business big shot: Ralph Topping The Times, London, 22 February 2008
  20. ^ "Casino machines save Hill after web bets flop". London Evening Standard. Retrieved 2010-04-12. 
  21. ^ a b William Hill in deal with Playtech to expand on-line gaming operation The Independent, 21 October 2008
  22. ^ "Interview: Henry Birch, William Hill Online". eGaming Review. Retrieved 2010-04-14. 
  23. ^ Bowers, Simon (2008-01-11). "William Hill to buy in technical experts to save internet arm". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 2010-04-12. 
  24. ^ "Bookie's IT botch", Daily Mail, London, 11 January 2008
  25. ^ King, Ian (2009-07-21). "William Hill reassures after Playtech warning". The Times (London). Retrieved 2010-04-12. 
  26. ^ William Hill PLC website
  27. ^ a b Lister, Sam (2009-02-07). "High-stakes gambling machines causing serious addiction". The Times (London). Retrieved 2010-04-13. 
  28. ^ William Hill 'satisfied' with business, Yorkshire Post, Leeds, 24 April 2008
  29. ^ Sibun, Jonathan (2008-02-28). "William Hill unfazed by gaming review". The Telegraph (London). Retrieved 2010-04-13. 
  30. ^ Staff at William Hill train to avert underage gambling
  31. ^ "Newsletter". Unite the Union. Retrieved 2010-04-12. [dead link]
  32. ^ a b "Community on Wm. Hill restructuring". Community. Retrieved 2010-04-12. 
  33. ^ "Something for nothing". Community. Retrieved 2010-04-12. 
  34. ^ Fletcher, Nick (2008-11-20). "Investors bet on bookies, but bad debt worries hit IG". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 2010-04-12. 
  35. ^ a b Harrington, Ben (2009-11-05). "William Hill to launch £250m high yield bond". The Telegraph (London). Retrieved 2010-04-12. 
  36. ^ William Hill; INSIDE THE CITY, The Sunday Times, London, 2 August 2009
  37. ^ "MP acting as bookies' lackey is a disgrace", The Telegraph, London, 19 May 2003
  38. ^ "MP ACCUSED ON BET LAWS", Daily Echo, Liverpool, 26 May 2003
  39. ^ "MP quits bookmaker job ahead of crackdown; Private earnings under spotlight", Daily Post, Liverpool, 29 June 2009
  40. ^ Walsh, Dominic; Oconnor, Rebecca (2009-08-04). "William Hill moves online betting offshore". The Times (London). Retrieved 2010-04-12. 
  41. ^ Kelso, Paul (2009-08-04). "William Hill's offshore gambling move raises match-fixing fears". The Telegraph (London). Retrieved 2010-04-12. 
  42. ^ "GBGA Official Website". Retrieved 21 January 2014. 
  43. ^ Mainwaring, Jon (2007-08-12). "William Hill Casino relocates ahead of advertising ban". The Independent (London). Retrieved 2010-04-14. [dead link]
  44. ^ "William Hill to close 14 betting shops in Republic". Irish Times. 2 February 2009. Retrieved 2010-04-14. 
  45. ^ "William Hill waits for details on State's gambling reform". Irish Times. 2 February 2010. Retrieved 2010-04-14. 
  46. ^ "Italian gamble a loser for Hills". London Evening Standard. Retrieved 2010-04-12. 
  47. ^ "Sale of Spain joint venture". William Hill. Retrieved 2010-04-14. 
  48. ^ "William Hill PLC - Re Joint Venture". William Hill. Retrieved 2010-04-14. 
  49. ^ "Annual Online Report". William Hill. Retrieved 2010-04-21. 
  50. ^ Thompson, James (2009-10-27). "Betfair and William Hill target India". London: independent.co.uk. Retrieved 2009-10-27. 
  51. ^ a b Velotta, Richard N. (21 June 2012). "British oddsmaker William Hill gets OK to operate 159 books in Nevada". Vegas Inc. Retrieved 28 June 2012. 
  52. ^ a b Green, Steve (28 June 2012). "William Hill, Affinity in long-term sports betting deal". Vegas Inc. Retrieved 28 June 2012. 
  53. ^ Websites that promote remote gambling will soon be blocked
  54. ^ Paley, Tony (2007-03-26). "Bookmakers threaten sponsorship cuts as betting shop row escalates". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 2010-06-14. 
  55. ^ "William Hill deal with TurfTV a case of history repeating as punter power wins day". The Scotsman. Retrieved 2010-06-14. 
  56. ^ "Sanz: William Hill deal strengthens Malaga relationship with British community". Tribalfootball.com. Retrieved 2010-04-12. 
  57. ^ "William Hill Sports Book of the Year". Hampshire County Council. Retrieved 2010-04-13. [dead link]
  58. ^ "ASA Adjudication on William Hill (Gibraltar) Ltd". ASA. Retrieved 2010-04-13. 
  59. ^ "ASA Adjudication on William Hill Organisation Ltd". ASA. Retrieved 2010-04-13. 
  60. ^ "ASA Adjudication on William Hill Organisation Ltd". ASA. Retrieved 2010-04-13. 
  61. ^ William Hill Football betting New Season TV Advert 2011 / 2012
  62. ^ "ASA Adjudication on William Hill Organisation Ltd". ASA. Retrieved 2013-01-05. 

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