Bookmaker News of the Week

By Martin Green08 September 2019
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Bookmaker News of the Week

William Hill has announced that chief executive Philip Bowcock will leave the business as it ramps up its focus on online and digital markets. The British bookmaking giant slumped to a £64 million loss in the first half of 2019 after its high street business was battered by FOBT curbs. It has been forced to close 700 betting shops and lay off a number of workers after the UK government ruled that the maximum stake per spin on virtual roulette must drop from £100 to just £2. Bowcock has also fallen by the wayside. “After all the work the team has done, I believe the business is now well placed to take advantage of the opportunities presented in the US market, as well as continued growth in digital,” said Bowcock, who had originally joined as finance director in November 2015. He will be replaced by chief digital officer Ulrik Bengtsson on September 30, reflecting an increased emphasis on online wagering. Bengtsson will earn an annual salary of £600,000.

Huddersfield have been fined £50,000 for taking part in Paddy Power’s “un-sponsoring” stunt marketing campaign. Terriers players wore shirts with a giant Paddy Power sash emblazoned across them during a pre-season friendly with Rochdale, despite it clearly breach FA guidelines. The referee, Martin Coy, revealed that Huddersfield chairman Phil Hodgkinson asked him to ban the kit, claiming it would be good publicity and boost the ad campaign. Coy said he did not feel comfortable being a part of the advertising, and instead referred the matter to the FA. The association said that Huddersfield acted in an irresponsible manner and was driven purely by financial gain, while anti-gambling campaigners laid into Paddy Power for riding roughshod over a historic old club.

Betfair stepped in to sponsor Saturday’s £300,000 Sprint Cup at Haydock after it almost ran without a commercial partner. Bookmakers have sponsored the Group 1 event since 1998, and previous supporters include Stanley Leisure, William Hill, Betfred and 32Red. It was in danger of lacking a financial broker for the first time, but Betfair stepped in. “Betfair has a long and successful association with Haydock Park and The Jockey Club, so it didn’t take us long to agree, in the best interest of all supporters of the sport, and ensure a race of this stature gets the support it deserves,” said Harry Phillips, head of sponsorship at Betfair. A 9/2 shot, Hello Youmzain, won the race ahead of The Tin Man and Waldpfad.

The UK Gambling Commission has approved a system that allows problem gamblers to exclude themselves from all betting sites in one fell swoop. All bookmakers targeting UK punters will be instructed to sign up to Gamstop as part of their licensing conditions. It comes after the bosses of three of the largest gambling companies angered MPs by pulling out of a planned grilling about their endeavours to reduce the dangers of online wagering. The chief executives of William Hill, Paddy Power Betfair owner Flutter Entertainment and Ladbrokes Coral owner GVC all pulled out of the session in Westminster within a few days of each other.

Carolyn Harris, chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Gambling Harm, raged: “These are men who run companies that feed addiction, amass vast profits from the vulnerable and take home huge pay packets, yet they are too afraid to appear before MPs. They seem to think they have better things to do than to explain their actions publicly. They are running scared and their actions are cowardly in the extreme.” William Hill, Flutter and GVC will all send representatives to the event, but the chief executives will not appear. Betfred boss Fred Done cannot make it due to a prior engagement, while Bet365 and Sky Bet are expected to send their chief executives.