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William Hill US moves to break even in 2019 after strong Q4 growth

In a trading update to investors, William Hill, parent of William Hill US, has cited strong progress towards break even status in the American sports betting sector, with expected adjusted profits for 2019 of between $185.6m and $192m for the whole group.

The US business, said the firm, continued to generate strong growth during the fourth quarter, driven by wagering growth and disciplined investment. “We now expect to be break even for the US business overall in 2019, compared to the guided range of $0m to -$20m,” it noted.

During the year the group said it had made good progress towards delivering its long term ambition to become a digitally led and internationally diversified business of scale while continuing to embed a culture of responsible gambling.

Ulrik Bengtsson, CEO, commented: “The group has delivered a strong operating performance, ahead of our expectations and against a challenging regulatory backdrop. We made good progress on a number of fronts, including our retail business, online and in the US, enabling us to deliver on our long term strategic ambitions. We look forward to building on these efforts in 2020 with a strong focus on customer, team and execution.”

During 2019, William Hill US made a string of high profile announcements, including becoming the first arena sportsbook operator in a deal with Monumental Sports & Entertainment. The firm also became an official NBA partner and struck its first tribal sports betting agreement in New Mexico with the Mescalero Apache Tribe.

The group’s 2019 final results will be announced on February 26, 2020.
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William Hill to reshuffle leadership after O’Brien and Whitlam step down

William Hill continues to see a number of changes to its senior management after Ciaran O’Brien (Director of Corporate Communications), and Dan Whitlam (Head of Safer Gambling) confirmed that they will be stepping down from the company.

O’Brien, spent five years at William Hill whereby he played a key role in establishing the operator’s responsible gambling strategy while also being pivotal stakeholder in establishing the Betting and Gaming Council.

Meanwhile, Safer Gambling lead Dan Whitlam steps down from the operator after holding his position since February 2019. During his time at William Hill, Whitlam supervised the implementation of the operator’s responsible gambling strategy across its UK retail estate, which included driving William Hill’s product and marketing offerings in a move to promote responsible gambling measures.

Strengthening the operator’s compliance efforts, Lottoland’s former general counsel and group company secretary Lloyd Lemmon has joined William Hill as the new director of legal and compliance for its UK online division. Starting his new role at the beginning of the month, Lemmon will serve the company from its Gibraltar office.

Earlier this month, Chief Financial Officer Ruth Prior confirmed that she will also be stepping down as CFO and as a Director of the Company where she will return to the private equity sector, joining Element Materials Technology as its new CFO.

Prior has been praised for her role in developing and delivering the strategy of the Company and driving several transformation initiatives, as well as having responsibility for Group Assurance and Procurement functions.
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William Hill advances US agenda with imminent CBS Sports deal

FTSE250 bookmaker William Hill Plc is reported to be in the ‘final stages’ of announcing a forthcoming landmark US partnership with national broadcaster CBS Sports.

This weekend, The Sunday Times reported that William Hill governance would imminently announce its tie-up with CBS Sports – the sports entertainment division of the newly formed ViacomCBS global media conglomerate.

The partnership will see William Hill secure a much-coveted media arrangement with a leading US sports broadcaster, replicating the competitor movements of the Stars Group Inc and GVC Holdings partnering with FOX and Yahoo Sports respectively.

Maintaining coverage across a reported 61 million US households, the CBS Sports network currently holds the exclusive rights to broadcast live NFL Sunday programming of AFC divisional games.

Further high coverage contracts see CBS Sports act as the lead national broadcaster of the NCAA Championships, covering US sports programming for college football, basketball, baseball soccer and athletics.

Following 2019’s $30 billion merger between Viacom and CBS, US media observers anticipate CBS Sports to aggressively expand its content portfolio, going head-to-head against Disney-owned market leader ESPN.

Specifics of the deal have not been revealed, as it is unknown whether William Hill will develop a unique sportsbook property for CBS Sports to replicate the Stars Group agreement with FOX Sports, which saw the launch of FOX BET across regulated market states last year.

Operating Nevada sportsbooks since 2012, William Hill currently maintains the biggest US wagering footprint servicing betting venues across nine regulated US states.

2020 sees William Hill enter the third year of its corporate recovery programme, implemented by former Chief Executive Philip Bowcock in 2018 to remodel the UK legacy bookmaker as a global betting business.

The FTSE firm’s recovery strategy has been maintained by new leader Ulrik Bengsston, who replaced Bowcock last September as Group CEO tasked with accelerating William Hill’s digital growth, as well as developing a fast scale US business and remodelling the firm’s UK retail network.
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William Hill and Scientific Games announce four-year extension

William Hill and Scientific Games have announced a four-year extension to its existing sportsbook platform partnership, building on a long-standing relationship that first began in 2007.

A statement released by Scientific Games this morning confirmed that William Hill will continue to utilise its sportsbook platform – including betting engine OpenBet – and casino content through Open Gaming System (OGS).

As lead sportsbook platform, Scientific Games’ ‘OpenSports’ will allow the legacy sportsbook to operate with more speed and flexibility, including the option to deploy proprietary products across multiple jurisdictions in Europe.

Jordan Levin, Group Chief Executive, Digital for Scientific Games, stated: “By choosing Scientific Games, William Hill is reaffirming their commitment and belief in our products, services and team and sending a message that we continue to be a source of competitive advantage for global industry leaders in all regulated markets.

“We’re really building on one of our strongest relationships. The team at William Hill share an ambition to create next level player experiences and together, across sports and iGaming, we’re making that a reality.”

Ulrik Bengtsson, William Hill’s Group CEO, commented: “It’s a pivotal time for sports betting and iGaming providers.

“Scientific Games’ solutions provide us with the flexibility that is key to our growth strategy in the U.K. and Europe and we’re pleased to continue to use their products that will be provided on a flexible and modular basis to power our shared success in the years to come.”

William Hill has continued to develop its brand in 2020 following the announcement that the bookmaker confirmed an exclusive arrangement with CBS Sports.
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Betfred purchases 3% share in William Hill

Taking advantage of its growing market share across the US, Betfred owner Fred Done has acquired a 3.03% share in rival bookmaker William Hill.

The move comes after Betfred has continued to expand across the post-PASPA market, having recently launched sportsbooks in both Colorado and Iowa, as well as securing an agreement with Scientific Games to go live in Pennsylvania.

Betfred was also named as an official sponsor of the fight between Deontay Wilder and Tyson Fury on 22 February, whereby the independent bookmaker saw its branding feature prominently in the ring.

Done, who did not reveal whether he had plans to increase his stake in William Hill, told the Racing Post: “I’ve bought Hills shares because they are massively undervalued and in my opinion when it comes to the US they are front-runners.”

Following the announcement, shares in William Hill climbed one point, rising 4.55p above their closing price on Friday before dropping by approximately 3% to 129.45p on Monday afternoon.

During 2019, William Hill US handled $2.9bn of gross amounts wagered, either directly or indirectly, 55% of which was placed through online channels.

As confirmed in its full-year 2019 results, the operator revealed that it has handled one in four bets across the US, having gone live in 9 of the fourteen states which have legalised sports betting.
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William Hill names new CFO and COO

William Hill has strengthened its senior leadership team after confirming the appointment of Matt Ashley as the new Chief Financial Officer (CFO) designate, and Stephen Parry as inbound Chief Operating Officer (COO).

Ashley is due to join the company and be appointed as an Executive Director to the William Hill Board on 6 April 2020, and will take over from Ruth Prior who will step down on 15 May 2020.

Prior to joining William Hill, Ashley gained FTSE 250 CFO experience at National Express before leading their North America business as President and CEO. Most recently, he held the position of Group Business Development Director.

He has also held the position of Director of transport, infrastructure and listed companies at Deloitte LLP.

The appointment of Ashley sees William Hill fulfil its executive search for a new CFO, following Adrian Marsh’s u-turn on joining the FTSE250 betting group last month.

Designate COO Parry is set to join William Hill later this year, moving from competitor Flutter Entertainment where he served as Integration Director, leading tech synergies and transformation projects attached to the approved Flutter/Stars merger transaction.

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.’
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