Updating investors on William Hill Plc Trading, Group CEO Philip Bowcock has detailed that the FTSE bookmaker will move to prioritise expansion within overseas markets in an attempt to combat any potential growth impacts felt from forthcoming UK regulatory increases.
William Hill recorded positive results for its 17-week trading period to 24 October, however, Bowcock believes further international growth will plug any gaps in UK revenue triggered by the forthcoming fixed-odds betting terminal (FOBT) restrictions.
He said: “We are still predominantly UK-based with UK revenues, and if you think that regulation is only going in one direction then by default you need to start thinking about diversification outside the UK.”
The statement also detailed strong US growth, driven by mobile growth, a factor that William Hill will look to build on in 2018. The company is further “looking forward to” the impending Supreme Court decision relating to the relaxing of the laws surrounding sports betting, and a positive result will inevitably further the plans for an extended international footprint.
In terms of having the right personnel in place to oversee this growth and transition, as group leader Bowcock speaks with confidence with regards to William Hill’s new executive team and governance, describing leadership as “well set” to deliver on corporate goals, as “the evidence of the last twelve months has proven that”.
The Australia Problem
As detailed in the Q3 trading statement, there was a 5% drop in amounts wagered in Australia – a blight on an otherwise positive quarterly update. Bowcock highlighted the ban on bookmakers offering credit to customers, which came into place at the end of April, as the primary factor for the decline. The Point of Consumption (POC) Tax has also been in place in the state of South Australia since July, and Bowcock notes that William Hill are “working on the assumption” that this will become a nationwide tax by 2019.
With that in mind, he describes how the company is “being very careful about investment at this time”, and is deploying a short-term mindset when dealing with this market. Nevertheless, Bowcock dismissed any idea of William Hill abandoning the Australian market completely, noting that “they bet more than anyone else, and that makes it a very interesting place to be”.
He summarised by saying “we are comfortable with where we are and we continue to aim to grow”.