William Hill revenue falls 57% in COVID lockdowns

Michelle K. Wallace

FILE PHOTO: Gamblers place bets on sports at Monmouth Park Sports Book by William Hill, shortly after the opening of the first day of legal betting on sports in Oceanport, New Jersey, U.S., June 14, 2018. REUTERS/Mike Segar

(Reuters) – Total net revenue at William Hill plunged 57% in the weeks following the start of coronavirus lockdowns in Europe and North America, as sports betting volumes collapsed and it was forced to close its retail network of betting shops.

In a trading update on Friday, the British bookmaker also pulled all future forecasts as it reported online betting revenue fell 21% in the seven weeks to April 28.

The firm expects each additional month of shop closures to impact core earnings by up to 15 million pounds ($18.29 million), about half of its initial estimate assuming the continuation of government support for furloughed workers.

It said it was encouraged by the return of Germany’s Bundesliga soccer league, which is due to recommence this weekend, and horseracing, which has resumed in France and is expected to return to the UK in June.

Football accounts for about half of online UK sports betting, while horseracing contributes nearly a third of it.

The company also said its creditors had waived revolving credit facility covenants for 2020 and that it had reduced its cash burn to around 15 million pounds per month by cutting marketing spending, cancelling salary hikes and furloughing employees.

Europe’s bookmakers were already under pressure before the coronavirus outbreak from rising taxes and a crackdown in Britain which includes limits on the size of stakes on gaming machines in betting shops, although they have seen opportunities in the opening up of U.S. markets in the past year.

The company suspended its dividend earlier this year and warned of an impact of 100-110 million pounds on core earnings if its high street shops had to close for a month and most sports events remained suspended until August.

On Friday, the company said it was performing ahead of this initial scenario which now incorporates three months of shop closures.

Reporting by Tanishaa Nadkar in Bengaluru; Editing by Aditya Soni and Patrick Graham

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