IF their claims of a few years back were to be believed, Britain’s major bookmaking chains were facing the abyss from the emergence of online betting exchanges.
These facilities, such as Betfair and Betdaq, essentially removed the bookmaker’s role, swapping it with a system where one punter matched a bet offered by another hopeful.
A 16 per cent increase in William Hill’s 2004 pre-tax earnings and a 28 per cent jump in income at Hilton’s Ladbrokes chain to £232 million and £273.4m respectively seem to suggest that Britain’s two biggest bookies businesses called it wrong.
Throw in a £22m profit at Paddy Power – Ireland’s biggest bookmaking firm – coupled with its 16th consecutive year of turnover growth and you get a clear picture of how much money punters are handing over to the bookies.
However, all seem to claim that they suffered last year at the hands of apparently lucky punters, who had put their money on well-backed equine favourites or were betting on football teams like Celtic, Rangers, Chelsea and Manchester United, who were on decent winning runs.
Despite such rotten luck on their part, the Togel Hongkong bookmaking groups still see growth in the market, so much so that William Hill and Paddy Power are looking to open more high street outlets in Britain. David Harding, chief executive at William Hill, Britain’s second-biggest bookmaking firm, says: “I think we could buy another 600,” adding that he was holding talks with “a number of smaller operators”.
Meanwhile, Paddy Power chief executive John O’Reilly says he is looking to boost his group’s presence in Britain from 31 to 50 outlets by the end of the year.
There is method in the apparent madness. While traditional retail betting in high street shops may have plateaued, it’s the rise of other forms of betting, namely online poker and casino sites and Fixed Odds Betting Terminals (FOBTs) in shops, that are fuelling profitability.
But others in the industry think that is not enough and Britain’s bookmakers need to start thinking on a global level.
Mr O’Reilly says Dublin-based Paddy Power, with 143 shops in Ireland, enjoyed an “outstanding” performance from its online division in 2004. “While all strands of the business performed well, I am particularly pleased the online business has come of age,” he adds.
HILTON’s chairman, Sir Ian Robinson, was similarly pleased with his group’s haul from internet gambling, where profits were up 50 per cent to £21.3m, fuelled by the success of Ladbrokes’ poker website.
“The increasing profitability of Ladbrokes is just reward for its innovative and professional approach to the betting and gaming business,” he says.
Mr Harding says William Hill, which has 1606 shops across Britain, finished the year with 5573 FOBTs in its shops, adding that the company will continue to “optimise numbers, siting and product”.
Over the year, he says the company made a net profit of £370 per week per machine. …