Finance

High street betting shops saved as 888 lands William Hill in £2.2bn deal


F

IVE years after its first attempt, 888 has finally won its punt on William Hill.

The online gambling operator is paying £2.2 billion to buy Hill’s non-US business, which includes 1400 betting shops.

That suggests it thinks there is life in the high street yet, and still money to be made from punters who prefer the atmosphere of a shop to gambling on a phone.

A statement said: “The combination of 888 and WHI (William Hill International) is expected to deliver significant operating efficiencies, including pre-tax cost synergies of at least £100 million per year, leading to improved profit margins,” its statement said.”

CEO Itai Pazner his plan was “absolutely” to keep the shops, good news for staff.

888 first tried to buy William Hill in 2016 in a complex three-way deal with Rank. That offer failed, Hill was later sold to US giant Caesars.

Russ Mould at AJ Bell said: ““For all of the deal’s potential, 888’s shares appear unmoved, and questions still have to be answered. Some investors may be wondering whether 2020’s pandemic-and-lockdown online betting boom can be sustained, given the greater range of leisure and spending opportunities that are once more open to consumers. Tighter regulation also remains a potential concern, notably in the UK, where the Government continues to review the 2005 Gambling Act.”

Susannah Streeter at Hargreaves Lansdown said: “Online wagers may have taken the world of gambling by storm during the pandemic, but there’s still a future for the high street betting shop.”

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