William Hill revenues plummet during coronavirus lockdown

William Hill has said its revenues more than halved during the coronavirus lockdown, as the betting company prepares for a staged reopening of its shops.

The bookmaker reported 57% fall in revenues in the seven weeks to 28 April. It said online betting revenues were also down by a fifth during the same period, adding that each month it betting shops were closed cost the company up to £15m.

William Hill said it was preparing to “power up” its UK and US businesses quickly, as live sport events resumed and physical distancing plans allowed it to reopen betting shops.

It is planning a staged opening for its UK chain of 2,000 shops in the second half of the year. The company said it had factored in a total impact on profits of up to £110m for three months of shop closures.

Ulrik Bengtsson, its chief executive, said: “We remain focused on player safety employing ever more customer protection. We are taking care of our teams, securing as many employment opportunities as possible and we are ready to power up the business as soon as Covid-19 restrictions permit.”

William Hill said it was encouraged by plans for the return of football, which accounts for about half of its online UK sports business, with the German Bundesliga playing behind closed doors from this weekend. Horse racing, which accounts for about half William Hill’s online UK sports business, has resumed in France and is expected to restart in the UK next month.

The company said on Friday it had agreed a waiver on covenant tests for its debt this year and had agreed more relaxed terms for 2021 as well. William Hill has already suspended dividend payments, cut marketing spend, cancelled pay rises and bonuses this year and furloughed staff.

“We conclude the period in a strong financial position with significant headroom,” the company said.

William Hill said it had increased the volume of responsible gambling messages sent to customers sixfold, and had not targeted vulnerable customers during the lockdown.

In April, the UK’s biggest betting and gaming companies agreed to cease advertising on TV and radio until at least 5 June. However, companies continued to use other channels such as direct marketing, which includes ads on social media, as well as emails and text messages.

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