Online boost for William Hill

Bookmaker William Hill cheered a "sparkling" performance from its burgeoning online business as punters increasingly took to betting on smartphones and tablet computers.

Surging use of smartphones and tablets for betting ensured another robust annual performance for bookmaker William Hill.
The UK's biggest bookie said mobile gaming net revenue leapt 175% higher last year on a 52-week basis, helping overall online sales rise 12% to £446.3 million.

William Hill, which is celebrating its 80th anniversary this year, said mobile gaming represented 39% of all wagering in 2013.

Ralph Topping, chief executive of William Hill, said: "Online's sportsbook performance continues to be sparkling, with staking levels up around 400% over  the five years since the start of 2009."

Its chain of more than 2,400 betting shops also saw resilient trading, with revenues up 10% thanks in part to the increasing popularity of controversial fixed odds betting machines, which saw revenues rise by a fifth.

William Hill expanded its gaming machine estate by 3% to more than 9,400 over the year, but there have been increasing  calls for the use of the machines - dubbed the "crack cocaine of gambling" - to be banned or limited.

A new code of conduct was announced by the Association of British Bookmakers today allowing gamblers to set limits on the amount of time and money they spend on gaming machines, as well as introducing  mandatory alerts when a customer has spent £250 or played for 30 minutes.

Over the counter betting was also resilient for W illiam Hill over the year, rising by 2% thanks to favourable horseracing and football results for the group, although retail earnings dropped 7% to £196.3 million on a 52-week basis after a hit from the introduction of machine games duty.

Overall earnings rose 3% to £335 million in 2013, but bottom line profits fell 6% to £257 million after a number of one-off impacts, such as the cost of buying Sportingbet's Australian business last March.

Its results came in stark contrast to rival Ladbrokes, which posted a 66% slump in profits earlier this week as its online capability trailed behind.

William Hill said trading since the year-end had seen an improvement following he fty losses on football results  in January   after  the top seven Premier League football teams all secured victories.

The group warned last month of a loss of around £13 million from the Premier League wins and said today that results had continued to go against the group over the rest of the month, but were "more positive" in February.

Amounts wagered have risen 4% across its betting shops so far this year and have soared by 46% online.

Shares in the group rose 3% after the results, with the market also reassured as William Hill outlined plans to offset the introduction of a new tax regime for online gambling in December.

It said it was a "market-changing event", but aims to mitigate the impact by slashing costs by between £15 million and £20 million.

The group will make the savings largely by cutting marketing spend next year.