William Hill slumped to a loss of £64 million for the first half of 2019 after struggling in the wake of FOBT maximum stake changes. The UK government enforced a mandatory maximum wager of £2 per spin on the virtual roulette machines, down from £100, and this has battered the land-based betting sector. Hills has fared worse than its rivals and the change in legislation has cost it almost £1 billion. Revenues from its retail empire were down 12%. Sports betting revenues increased, by FOBT revenue was down 25%. It would have reported a £51 million profit were it not for the curbs on FOBT stakes, but a £97 million one-off accounting charge relating to the impact of the curbs wiped it out. It now plans to focus more heavily on the US sports betting market. “We are making good progress against the five-year strategy we outlined last year, delivering strong revenue growth in the US and other international markets and positioning William Hill well for future growth,” said a bullish Philip Bowcock, the firm’s chief executive.
Wayne Rooney has drawn the ire of anti-gambling campaigners for opting to wear the number 32 on his back when he moves to Derby County in January. The Rams have just secured a record-breaking sponsorship deal with gambling firm 32Red, which is owned by Kindred Group along with Unibet. Jim Oford, who runs Gamble Watch UK, said: “It won't say 32Red, it will just be 32, but it clearly is meant to be a link to 32Red and people will start to associate the number 32 with gambling and gambling on 32Red. It is a loophole in the law. A lot of children won't understand it to start with but advertising is like that. A lot of people will understand it, while for others it will just be in the back of their minds and be subliminal. One of the basic principles of the Gambling Commission is that they protect children and young people. It should be making a fuss about this, to the FA in particular.”
The FA has handed Huddersfield Town a misconduct charge over wearing a pre-season kit with a sash-style Paddy Power ad emblazoned on it. The shirt was another piece of stunt marketing from the Irish bookmaker’s Department of Mischief, and it has now paid to “un-sponsor” Huddersfield’s shirt, leaving it blank for the season. Yet the FA has still charged the Terriers for wearing the shirt during a pre-season friendly. Elsewhere, Paddy Power has apologised for a technical glitch that saw it fail to include a horse called Mr Smith on the card for a race at Galway last weekend. Mr Smith was a third reserve and went on to win the race by 10 lengths. Paddy Power paid out on the second placed horse to apologise. “Unfortunately our feed provider omitted the eventual winner from our events and we didn’t have Mr Smith listed in our betting until 1.35pm on Sunday for the 2.45pm race at Galway on the same day,” it said. “We have worked closely with our customer services team to look after affected customers.”
The industry’s responsible gambling slogan – “when the fun stops, stop” – does little to reduce the amount people wager, according to University of Warwick academics. They criticised the industry for making the word “fun” larger than any other word, and said the message has little or no effect. The researchers said they asked 506 Premier League fans to place small wagers after viewing adverts, some of which contained the warning label and some of which did not. The warning label was found to have little or no effect, but the study seems too small to be conclusive.