William Hill waits for details on State's gambling reform

Sat, Feb 27, 2010, 00:00

BOOKMAKER William Hill will wait for Government proposals on reforming gambling legislation before deciding the future of its 36 shops in the Republic.

The British-based retail and online bookie yesterday published results showing profits before tax were down 9 per cent at £197.5 million in 2009.

The company operates 36 outlets in the Republic, and wrote off £8.2 million against it at the end of 2009, which it said reflected trading weakness in its shops here. It closed 14 of them during the year.

Its statement said that it was keeping its business here under review. However, chief executive Ralph Topping indicated to analysts that the company was waiting for Department of Justice proposals geared at reforming the Republic’s gambling laws before taking any further steps.

William Hill was one of a number of operators that wants the Government to allow bookmakers to introduce casino gaming machines – known as fixed-odds betting terminals (FOBTs) – to their shops. British regulations allow two such machines per shop.

However, the new laws are likely to include a provision banning bookmakers from doing that, a move that Hills and other operators will see as a blow.

Sources said yesterday that the company would welcome the machines’ introduction to the Republic.

Each of its 8,772 machines won an average of £678 a week from its British punters in 2009, or close to £6 million in total.

The department is due to publish its proposals in about two months. They are expected to include provisions for the licensing of casinos among other changes.

During 2009, William Hill announced that it would be dropping its sponsorship of the Galway Plate, the summer racing festival’s showpiece.