William Hill has upgraded its full-year profit guidance by 12% to between £143 million and £148 million after trading proved stronger than expected. Its retail performance was aided by a string of unexpected sporting results, as Premier League champions Man City struggled for form and 5/4 favourite Cyrname finished 21 lengths back in the King George VI Chase. Its US business is now expected to break even, which is a strong performance considering rivals like DraftKings and FanDuel are haemorrhaging money. The group’s shares rose 1.1% following the announcement. “The group has delivered a strong operating performance, ahead of our expectations and against a challenging regulatory backdrop,” said chief executive Ulrik Bengtsson. Chief financial officer is stepping down to join Element Materials Technology.
Ladbrokes Coral owner GC announced that it had an “excellent” performance in 2019 despite a regulatory crackdown. It said that EBIDA for the full year would be around £680 million, which is at the upper end of its previously upgraded forecast. “The group’s operational and financial performance in 2019 has been excellent,” said Kenny Alexander, GVC’s chief executive. He added that the results were “underpinned by our determination to spearhead the industry’s approach to responsible gaming”. The government imposed a mandatory maximum stake of £2 per spin on Fixed Odds Betting Terminals, decimating the high street betting shop sector, but the business has done well online. It also has 24 brands globally and is less reliant on the UK market than rivals like William Hill. Analysts at Morgan Stanley said that GVC was their top pick in the gambling sector thanks to its “superior geographic diversification and exposure to high growth markets like Brazil.
The UK Gambling Commission has banned bookmakers from accepting credit cards from punters. It follows a review of online gambling, gaming machines and social responsibility measures. UK Finance estimates that 800,000 Brits use credit cards to gamble. Neil McArthur, Gambling Commission chief executive, said: “Credit card gambling can lead to significant financial harm. The ban should minimize the risks of harm to consumers from gambling with money they do not have.” GVC boss Alexander estimated that 8% of the firms handle comes from credit cards, and added that those punters will find another method of depositing.
The mental health director of the NHS has written to the chief executives of GVC, William Hill, Bet365, Betfred and Paddy Power Betfair owner Flutter Entertainment to express concerns around responsible gambling. Claire Murdoch described the tactics used by bookmakers to encourage wagering as “shameful”. She believe the practice of offering of hospitality tickets, VIP treatment and free bets to vulnerable bettors should end. “In order to operate safely, the gambling industry has a responsibility to prevent the occasional flutter turning into a dangerous habit,” said Murdoch. “Worryingly, some of the incentives apparently offered by individual firms to continue betting appear designed to undermine people’s ability to stay in control.” Brigid Simmonds, chair of the Betting & Gaming Council, invited Murdoch to a meeting to discuss her concerns.
The UK Gambling Commission said it is investigating a deal that allowed Bet365 and other sites to live stream FA Cup clashes. The Football Association has been criticised after it sold the rights to the competition via a third party. “Our investigations into that matter are ongoing," said Gambling Commission chief executive Neil McArthur. “I understand why there are concerns, and to be clear we already require gambling operators to market, advertise or engage in sponsorship in a socially responsible way. We are in touch with all operators in the deal to find out what they did to satisfy themselves.”