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Operators not taking current situation lightly, says William Hill director

Operators are not taking the current situation brought about by the coronavirus pandemic lightly and are very much focused on player protection, according to a panellist from William Hill.

Speaking at payments day of the SBC Digital Summit, William Hill AML group director Steven Armstrong said player information is key in this current period so operators are aware what could lead to a change in behavior.

He said: “It’s important for us to know personal information such as if someone has been furloughed from a long-term job which might change their behavior and lead them to play a different product or for more hours than usual.

“Knowing their situation allows us to manage their and all that data collected is so vital for us to make that decision. The pandemic has heighted the need for such information but operators should be doing this anyway.”

Armstrong also praised the industry after it was announced this week members of the Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) in the UK have agreed to no longer advertise on TV or radio during the lockdown. He added that the industry needs to come together during this current crisis.

“There has been a lot more focus on player checks from the industry during this time. We always react to bad news in the industry, but the work I’ve seen with us and from other members – including those of the BGC – shows we haven’t taken this situation lightly.

“We’re certainly not taking advantage, if anything it’s hitting us hard. We’re a hibernating sports business and it will return which will give us a chance to refresh but other operators don’t have that luxury and it will still be hitting them hard over the head. As an industry we need to come together to make sure the customers are protected during this period.

“What we’re really looking at is if a player’s situation has changed and if they are now looking at gambling to make ends meet.”

After GVC, Push Gaming Now Partners with William Hill

Online casino content provider Push Gaming has added a new top-tier client to its ever-growing network amid its ongoing transformation from a boutique casino games developer to a full-fledged industry supplier.

The company announced today that it has partnered up British bookmaker William Hill to provide it with its entire slots portfolio.

Popular Push Gaming titles such as Jammin’ Jars, The Shadow Order, and Razor Shark will go live with William Hill. The supplier will keep rolling out content with the operator as it releases new games in future.

The integration will be carried out via Push Gaming’s in-house gaming platform. The provider will be adding content to William Hill’s games library in the coming weeks.

This is the latest major content supply deal announced by Push Gaming in recent days. Last week, the company announced that it has partnered up with another big industry name as it looks to grow its network of clients and its presence across new and existing markets.

Push Gaming revealed last week that it has agreed to supply its content portfolio to GVC Holdings’ online gaming brands, which include Ladbrokes, Coral, and bwin, among others.

Just as with William Hill, Push Gaming’s suite of casino games will be rolled out across GVC’s brands in several phases.

Teaming Up with an Industry Titan

Of their recent partnership with William Hill, Push Gaming’s CEO, James Marshall, said that the legacy British bookmaker is “a titan of the industry and [they] are delighted to be supplying them with a selection of [their] games.”

Mr. Marshall also noted that the first batch to be added to William Hill’s existing offering will include a selection of Push Gaming’s most popular games, with more titles set to be integrated in the coming months.

The supplier’s chief added that their content has “proven to be hugely popular with players all over the world” and that they believe their games will be a big hit with William Hill’s player base, as well.

As mentioned above, Push Gaming is currently transforming its business from a boutique online casino games developer to a full-blown supplier of content for the online gambling industry that manages its own proprietary platform.

The ongoing transformation was boosted by the acquisition of Game Server Integrations (GSI), which Push Gaming announced early this year.

Thanks to the deal, Push Gaming will be able to implement its growth plans throughout the year, which include the introduction of new content as well as of platform feature innovations and in-game mechanics. All these are anticipated to hit the iGaming market in the months to come.

Push Gaming’s titles are all designed to provide an immersive and engaging, mobile-focused gaming experience. Its games are available across all devices and operating systems, including on desktop.

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William Hill share price up 64% in a week as gaming stocks rise

Share prices have seen much volatility in the gaming sector since the coronavirus pandemic took hold.

Despite a general downward trend, Gambling Insider reported online gaming companies saw some resurgence in late March.

It has been another fruitful week for stock prices within the sector, with several firms seeing double-digit growth.

Perhaps the most notable example is William Hill, which has seen its share value rise 64% in seven days – at the time of writing sitting at £1.05 ($1.31).

This is still only just over half of its pre-COVID-19 share price but shows a positive response, perhaps to the growth of online casino and the stabilising cost-cutting measures implemented by the company.

GVC Holdings is also up 49% in the last seven days, to £6.68, while Flutter Entertainment has recorded a slightly more modest improvement of 9% to £75.94.

Elsewhere, Kambi’s share price is the highest it has been in a month, at 114.90 SEK ($11.53) having grown 25% in the past seven days.

The supplier is another company to have updated investors with cost-cutting measures this week.

William Hill halts 2020 bonus scheme in cost-saving measures

As a result of the impact of COVID-19, William Hill has announced it will withdraw its 2020 bonus scheme for executives and grant a 100% salary furlough for its retail workers in a series of cost-saving measures.

The furlough will be representative of 100% of workers’ salaries and has been introduced “for the time being,” with William Hill acknowledging the importance of the income for retail workers and their families.

The operator has made three key decisions in regards to executive remuneration.

Ulrik Bengtsson, William Hill CEO, will not accept his 2020 Performance Share Plan award, which will accordingly lapse. No other awards will be made to senior executives.

There will also be no salary increases for senior executives during 2020, including Bengtsson.

Finally, the operator’s 2020 bonus scheme has been withdrawn for Executive Directors, the wider executive team and senior employees.

In regards to Matt Ashley’s recent appointment as CFO, the operator is confident it has “protected shareholders’ interests appropriately by not overpaying for the appointment.”

William Hill appoints new CFO and hires Flutter director as COO

William Hill has announced the appointments of a new CFO and COO.

Adrian Marsh was due to become the operator’s new CFO, replacing Ruth Prior, but recently re-evaluated his position due to the coronavirus pandemic and decided to remain with DS Smith.

William Hill has announced Matt Ashley will now take up the role instead, being appointed Executive Director, as well as CFO, on 6 April.

He joins from National Express and possesses 20 years of financial experience.

Meanwhile, Stephen Parry will join William Hill’s Executive Committee as COO later this year.

Parry moves from Flutter Entertainment, where he led the integration arising from the Flutter – Stars Group transaction as Integration Director.

CEO Ulrik Bengtsson said: “These two key appointments reinforce our focus on building a high-calibre team.

“Matt and Stephen bring significant strengths to the company. Matt has a wealth of international financial and US experience as well as being an experienced CFO of a FTSE 250-listed company. 

“Stephen comes with a first-class track record of driving digital change, operational focus and customer experience in senior roles at Vodafone and Flutter. I look forward to welcoming them both to William Hill.”  

Incoming William Hill CFO withdraws from role due to coronavirus uncertainty

William Hill has announced incoming CFO Adrian Marsh will not be joining the operator after deciding to stay at DS Smith, due to the unprecedented circumstances of the coronavirus outbreak.

Marsh was appointed CFO last month, replacing Ruth Prior, but has withdrawn from the process to stay on in his role as Group Finance Director at packaging company DS Smith.

Prior, who is currently serving her notice period after announcing her intention to step down in January, will continue as CFO until a replacement is found, with William Hill stating it has immediately recommenced its search.

William Hill Chairman Roger Devlin said: “While we note the reasons for Adrian’s decision, William Hill is focused on taking the necessary steps required in these unprecedented times to protect the interests of its stakeholders. We will provide an update in due course.”

The coronavirus is proving to be a difficult period for William Hill, which earlier this month said the impact of the virus is expected to reduce group EBITDA by £100m ($118.8m) to £110m for the year.

The reduction is due to all major sport being suspended or postponed, with sports betting generating 53% of group revenue last year. The operator has also suspended its dividend until further notice.

William Hill Expects Big Drop 2020 Earnings due to Covid-19 Outbreak

Legacy British bookmaker William Hill has suspended dividend in light of the dynamic situation and uncertainty the spread of the coronavirus has created.

The company said that it expects that the dangerous virus that has gripped every contour of society would have a material impact on its full-year revenue and core earnings.

William Hill said Monday in a statement on its official website that while it cannot at this point accurately determine the effect of Covid-19, it has considered a number of possible outcomes in the next few months.

The coronavirus outbreak and rapid global spread prompted the cancellation or postponement of multiple sporting events around the world, wreaking havoc and concern in the otherwise highly lucrative sports betting industry.

William Hill said that the outcomes it has based its earnings estimates on include UK and international football resuming in August, the cancellation or postponement of the UEFA Euro 2020 until next year, one-month closure of UK retail betting ships, the cancellation of the Grand National and Royal Ascot and US sports resuming in time for the NFL season in early September.

If the above outcomes transpire, William Hill said, Group EBITDA is expected to slump by £100-£110 million. At present, horse racing and betting shops remain open, but tougher measures capsaq in the UK’s fight against the spread of Covid-19 are expected to be introduced any time now as the number of confirmed cases grows rapidly.

William Hill Suspends Dividend

William Hill said Monday that in the case of an additional month of closure of its betting shops, its EBITDA would drop by £25 million to £30 million.

The company revealed that under the current circumstances, its board has decided to suspend dividend until further notice and to focus on retaining resources within the group. William Hill noted that it has “a robust financial position and has appropriate liquidity to absorb the impacts of the scenario outlined.”

The gambling operator pointed out that it has implemented a number of measures to mitigate the anticipated negative effects of the coronavirus outbreak and to ensure normal operations.

William Hill said that prior the recent cancellations and postponement of major sporting events around the world, trading during the first quarter of the year was ahead of expectations thanks to favorable sports results and a strong retail performance.

Sports betting accounted for 53% of the group’s revenue in 2019.

William Hill’s CEO, Ulrik Bengtsson, commented that while “these are truly unprecedented times”, the company has “been around for 86 years and over that time we have gained huge experience and understanding of our customers.”

Mr. Bengtsson went on that:

“We are taking action to maintain our operational capability, to secure and enhance our liquidity and to ensure we are in a strong position to resume full operations when the sporting calendar returns to normal.”

In separate news, it emerged earlier this month that Betfred founder Fred Done has begun building a stake in William Hill, taking advantage of the weak stock market. The billionaire businessman first bought a 3% stake in the legacy bookmaker and is understood to have added to that last week.

According to British media reports, Mr. Done is now one of the biggest investors in William Hill with a stake worth more than £25 million.

The Betfred founder reportedly offered last year to buy William Hill’s retail betting shops in the UK, but the bookmaker rejected the offer. Mr. Done buying stock in the gambling operator prompted speculations that a tie-up between his own bookmaker, Betfred, and William Hill could occur at some point in future.

Source: COVID-19 update; dividend suspended

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Stars Group, William Hill and GVC Holdings provide coronavirus updates

The Stars Group has declared it is performing ahead of expectations so far this year, despite the worldwide impact of the coronavirus.

The operator said its UK segment, which includes the Sky Betting & Gaming brand, has continued strong underlying momentum in Q1 2020, while international revenue is slightly ahead year-on-year, on a constant currency basis.

While The Stars Group CEO Rafi Ashkenazi was happy with performance so far, sustained or further postponement of major sporting events will naturally affect short-term sports betting revenue.

The outbreak, which has seen nearly 175,000 reported cases worldwide, has led to the entire football league, from the Premier League down to League Two, suspended in England until at least early April, along with other major European leagues.

However, William Hill has said the impact of the virus is expected to reduce group EBITDA by £100m to £110m ($122m-$135m) for the year, citing the fact that last year 53% of its revenue was generated through sports betting.

The operator is also suspending its dividend until further notice, saying its 2019 final dividend will not be proposed at May’s AGM.

William Hill CEO Ulrik Bengtsson, said: “We are taking action to maintain our operational capability, to secure and enhance our liquidity and to ensure we are in a strong position to resume full operations when the sporting calendar returns to normal.”

Meanwhile, GVC Holdings has estimated EBITDA will be reduced by approximately £130-150m for the year if major sporting events are cancelled.

If UK shops are closed, EBITDA would incrementally reduce by approximately £45-50m per month.

GVC CEO Kenny Alexander said: “While we do not underestimate the challenge presented by Covid-19, GVC is in a robust position to manage the impact on our operations.”

Earlier, Flutter Entertainment posted a similar forcecast, expecting a £90-110m reduction in group EBITDA.

Betfred Fuels Merger Speculations with William Hill Stake Purchase

Billionaire brothers Fred and Peter Done, who co-founded bookmaker Betfred in 1967, announced on Monday that they have purchased a 3.03% stake in rival betting operator William Hill.

The Monday announcement triggered speculations that the Betfred founders might be interested in acquiring William Hill’s UK retail estate or even in combining Betfred with its rival bookmaker.

According to some analysts, the fact that the Done brothers bought a stake in William Hill through Betfred’s main retail subsidiary (Done Brothers (Cash Betting) Limited) could be a precursor to a potential offer by Betfred to acquire William Hill’s betting shops chain.

William Hill was forced to close more than 700 betting shops around the UK to offset the losses caused by the Government’s crackdown on fixed-odds betting terminals. The company’s retail estate currently counts 1,568 betting shops.

Betfred runs around 1,500 shops across the UK. If the bookmaker acquires its rival’s chain of betting shops, that would place it on a par with GVC Holdings, whose Ladbrokes and Coral brands currently manage about 3,000 betting shops.

According to a betting industry insider, Fred Done has long been eyeing William Hill’s real estate. “The question, as ever with Fred, will be what he’s willing to pay,” the unnamed source told The Times.

Undervalued William Hill

While some analysts believe that Monday’s stake purchase is a clear sign of a transaction involving the two bookmakers coming up, others said that it is more likely the Done brothers believe William Hill is undervalued and many fail to recognize the potential of its US sports betting business.

A spokesperson for Betfred confirmed that Fred Done believed William Hill to be undervalued, even though the legacy British betting operator was “the frontrunner” in the US sports betting field.

The Betfred spokesperson declined to comment on whether the Done brothers might be interested in acquiring some of William Hill’s business or the entire company.

Betfred itself has been looking to expand in the nascent US wagering market. The company has so far secured betting partners in Colorado, Iowa, and Pennsylvania, but will certainly form more partnerships in other states where athletic gambling is legal or is about to become legal.

As for William Hill, the company’s US division runs the majority of sportsbooks across Nevada and has been able to expand in more states thanks to a partnership with major casino operator Eldorado Resorts.

The British bookmaker also recently penned a sports media partnership with CBS Sports that provided William Hill with exclusive rights to promote its brand across the media giant’s broad range of digital platforms.

As Betfred seeks to grow its footprint in the US, the company approaching William Hill over a potential tie-up seems like a logical step.

Source: Betfred pair take punt on rival William Hill

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William Hill 2019 Profit Beats Management Guidance

British bookmaker William Hill beat its annual profit expectations despite tough operating environment in its domestic UK gambling market, the company announced today.

However, the legacy sports betting and gambling operator is bracing for a new hit to its profitability as UK regulators gear up preparations for a ban on the use of credit cards for gambling.

William Hill’s operating profit fell 37% in the 52 weeks to December 31, 2019 to £147 million, ahead of management expectations of about £143 million. The company made a statutory loss before tax of £37.6 million on exceptional charge and adjustments of £134.1 million, predominantly related to the closure of betting shops and subsequent redundancies.

William Hill was forced to close more than 700 betting shops around the UK, following a massive cut of the maximum stake on fixed-odds betting terminals from £100 to £2. The UK Government cracked down on the controversial gambling machines in April 2019 after pressure from anti-gambling lobbyists.

Full-year net revenue was down 2% to £1.58 billion and operating cash flow dropped 7% to £183 million. William Hill’s net debt increased to £535.7 million due to the acquisition of Swedish gambling operator Mr Green in early 2019. William Hill paid £242 million for the digital gambling operation.

US Expansion Continues

William Hill’s growth in the US sports betting market was the highlight of the company’s 2019 financial report. The bookmaker said that its US net revenue grew 38% year on year, capturing a 24% nationwide market share.

William Hill further revealed that its purpose-built digital platform went live and that its online channels handled 55% of all US bets placed throughout the year.

The company has been present in the Nevada sports betting market for a while now, but has recently been able to expand its presence across more states around the nation. Earlier this week, the company announced that it has secured its entry into the nascent Michigan sports betting market through a partnership with Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians.

And earlier in February, William Hill penned a sports media partnership with CBS Sports that would significantly boost the operator’s brand exposure across various digital channels.

Looming Credit Card Ban and Its Impact on Profitability

While William Hill is content with the fact that it managed to beat management guidance, the company warned in its latest financial report that it expects a big blow from the looming ban on credit card gambling.

The UK Gambling Commission announced earlier this year that the ban would take effect on April 1.

William Hill said that the crackdown would cost it between £5 million and £10 million. Credit card payments account for 5% of the gambling operator’s digital revenue.

Commenting on the company’s financial performance in 2019, CEO Ulrik Bengtsson said that last year “was a year of transition during which we executed on our ambition to diversify internationally with the acquisition of Mr Green and the continued strong growth of our US business.”

Mr. Bengtsson went on that William Hill “delivered a strong operating performance, ahead of our expectations and against a challenging regulatory backdrop.”

Of his expectations for 2020, the gambling executive said that they move into the new year “in a stronger position” as “a quarter of revenue is now generated outside the UK” and after they made “positive progress with our digital platform, launching our purpose-built platform in the US and product developments in the Online business in 2019.”

Source: William Hill: 2019 Final Results

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