Over The Hill: UK Icon’s Uncertain Future

British high street betting icon William Hill can rightly lay claim to being the progenitor of modern gambling.

Back in the 1930s, its eponymous founder launched his betting business as a postal and telephone-based betting service — the equivalent then of today’s booming, increasingly Internet-driven, gaming industry.

Now comes confirmation—following William Hill’s recent £2.9 billion merger (US$3.98bn/€3.37bn) with US entertainment and resort giant Caesars Entertainment—that WH’s British and European operations have been sold off to online movers 888 Holdings.

Gibraltar-headquartered, FTSE-250 888 have reputedly paid in the region of £2 billion (US$2.75bn/€2.32bn) for WH’s 1,400 UK high street betting shops, Irish operations and other non-US iGaming verticals.

As reported in these pages, the eventual stripping of WH’s UK and European assets has been mooted from the get-go — when suitors, fired by her online charms, first began wooing the beauty of British betting during the height of the pandemic.

It’s understood that 888 beat off stiff competition from Betfred, the ubiquitous New York-based Apollo Global Management—who were in the running for the original company-wide sale, confirmed in July this year—and Tipico, the German sports betting and casino gaming operator who deal out of Malta.

888 shares have moved two per cent up on the reports.

But it’s unclear what 888 intend to do with William Hill’s bricks and mortar betting shops, which first opened during the boom years of the so-called Swinging Sixties.

Given the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, with the very real prospect of further lockdowns, many gambling industry insiders may concur that high street action is strictly for the dinosaurs.

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