William Hill published its full-year report for 2018, suffering a considerable setback in the form of £721 million operating losses.
The operator tallied costs totalling £922 million, which included a ‘one-off’ £880 million retail impairment charge following the UK government’s ‘Triennial Review’ judgement lowering FOBTs stakes to a £2 minimum stake.
Further setbacks saw the firm’s digital momentum interrupted by a £17 million charge for failing to enforce enhanced customer due diligence measures.
In 2019, the bookmaker will expand its digital division, incorporating the assets of MRG Group, completing its £240 million acquisition this January, moving to build its ‘international base and capabilities’.
One positive that came during a particularly tumultuous financial period was Hills’ Nobody Harmed campaign, a voluntary whistle-to-whistle TV advertising ban agreed during pre-watershed UK live sport.
Group Chief Executive Philip Bowcock said: “2018 was a busy and decisive year for us. Key regulatory decisions in the UK and US gave us much-needed clarity to set a new five-year strategy and a goal to double profits by 2023.
“We have three businesses at different stages, with Online growing in the UK and diversifying internationally, Retail being remodelled in response to the new £2 stake limit, and rapid expansion in the US sports betting market. Underpinning this, we have taken a clear leadership stance around safer gambling with our Nobody Harmed ambition.”
International expansion would be a key theme underlined throughout, William Hill’s statement, with the bookmaker detailing strong progress on its US agenda, in which it is operational in six states with potential access to a further 17.
“We have started delivering on our strategy with the expansion of our US business, being first out of the blocks in all states that have regulated sports betting, and with the acquisition of Mr Green, which will support the build-out of our international digital business. We have also put our weight behind reducing the amount of TV gambling advertising seen by under-18s through a voluntary whistle-to-whistle advertising ban before the watershed.
“We know the next few years will require careful navigating and investment, but with a clear strategy and diverse, experienced leadership teams in place we are ready to capitalise on the opportunities available to us.”