It’s been a tough old time for William Hill Plc these last few years. The popular and well recognised UK high street bookmaker has continued to struggle with it’s online casino and gambling division. It’s full year results for 2016 were released publicly on their website last month, and it certainly makes interesting reading.
Over the last 5 years, the online division of William Hill has struggled to keep pace with more dynamic, smaller rivals, particularly since the ending of their joint-venture partnership with Playtech. In particular it can be argued that their online casino platform has been a little too generic, especially when compared to a number of new entrents in recent years, particularly from Scandinavian operators such as Casumo Casino.
Though it’s not only the online division that have been struggling at William Hill. Whilst revenue for the year was up 1%, underlying profit, a more indicative measure of business performance, was down 10% to £261.5m. This is surprising given the inclusion of the Euro 2016 football tournament, a major event that would normally boost annual results. The good news for investors is that both the Retail and Australian Divisions performed well throughout the year.
Yet it’s also clear that 2016 represented a year of technological development within William Hill. A redesigned sportsbook platform was launched in June 2016, and whislt this has clearly offered a better customer experience, it’s apparent that other areas within the business have struggled. So much so, that a change of leadership occured in the online division during the year. However, analysts have been quick to point out that key performance indicators have been a concern, particularly the lower revenue per customer figures thathave been reported.
It’s clear that 2016 has been another year of ‘transition’ for William Hill. With a saturated UK market, it’s apparent that growth lies in international markets in the United States (Nevada), Spain and Italy. However the issue of regulation is one that looks likely to continue to restrict growth into new markets, particularly in Europe. For example, the Swiss online casino and sports betting market in would be a market where William Hill could leverge their brand awareness and recognition, yet this market remains unregulated and therefore ‘out of bounds’, for the mean time anyway.
Though it looks as if the William Hill Board are getting on top of things. Whilst financial results were “below what the Board expected at the start if this year”, it’s clear that they came close to their revised figures. It should be an interesting year for them, and we look forward to seeing how they perform, particularly in respect to their online casino and gaming products.