Bookmakers Donate £100m to GambleAware

By Martin Green21 June 2020
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The UK’s five largest betting companies will donate £100 million to GambleAware in order to help the charity support people with gambling problems. Bet365, Ladbrokes Coral owner GVC Holdings, Sky Betting and Gaming, William Hill and Paddy Power Betfair agreed to donate the money to bolster treatment services. Health Secretary Matt Hancock welcomed the news. “I’ve seen first hand how problem gambling can damage people’s mental health and affect the lives of those around them – and I’ve been determined to help protect vulnerable people from the impacts,” he said. “The government will continue to tackle the consequences of problem gambling by rolling out specialist services on the NHS, which will offer expert care and treatment for those who need it.”

William Hill raised £224 million in a discounted stock sale designed to mitigate the impact of the coronavirus crisis this week. The firm said it needed to strengthen its balance sheet and fund an ambitious expansion drive in the US sports betting market. William Hill was the first British bookmaker to make a significant move into the US, and it carved out a market leading position in Nevada, the only state permitted to offer sports betting. The US Supreme Court then axed a federal ban on sports wagering in May 2018, and almost half of the states have now legalised sports betting. William Hill has expanded into most of them, while securing deals to run monopolies in Delaware and Rhode Island and tying up partnerships with Eldorado Resorts and Caesars Entertainment. However, Paddy Power Betfair owner Flutter Entertainment has now emerged as the main player thanks to its FanDuel and Fox Bet brands. DraftKings is also on a roll, so William Hill needs to invest in new customer acquisition.

Shares in William Hill decreased as a result of the stock sale. However, chief executive Ulrik Bengtsson is bullish about the firm’s future prospects. “The return of sporting events has driven a strong recovery in our online volumes,” he said. “Our UK online business is in a better place than ever and our international business is displaying solid growth. In the U.S. we have used this period of lockdown wisely to move our product forward and we are now in a strong position to capitalize on the US growth opportunity that lies ahead.” The return of UFC, Bundesliga football and NASCAR drove an uptick in sports betting handle last month. Now the Premier League, La Liga, the UK flat racing season and the PGA Tour are all back up and running, sparking confidence among operators.

There was chaos and confusion in Ireland this week as bookmakers reopened for business and then quickly shut their doors again. Ladbrokes and Paddy Power both flung open their doors for the first time since March following the coronavirus lockdown. However, they both closed their stores once again after becoming aware of a specification that bookies should not open until June 29. Both firms said they would take the necessary steps to adhere to public health guidelines, and they are now awaiting a green light from the government on when they can open up again. “Paddy Power shops opened yesterday, in line with other bookies in Ireland, following the Government guidelines on re-opening of retail outlets,” said a spokesman. "All our shops have detailed operational protocols in place in all shops to ensure that social distancing and other public health requirements are met in full in the interests of colleagues and customers. "During yesterday, we became aware of a Government specification that bookies should open on June 29th. Hence, we took the decision to close our shops from this morning until we have the green light to go ahead.”