British bookmaker Betfred has denied rumours that the company is planning on making a bid for the acquisition of William Hill.
Last week, we reported that US casino operator Caesars Entertainment had made a £2.9 billion bid for William Hill, but a weekend report from The Sunday Telegraph claimed that Fred Done, the co-founder of Betfred, is planning on launching a rival offer to top Caesars’ offer.
According to the report, Done, who owns six per cent of William Hill’s shares, is “weighing up all options” and the report claims that Betfred is considering bidding for William Hill’s entire business due to the challenges of high-street trading amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Done held informal discussions on the acquisition of outlets last year, suggesting that a bid could be possible. According to FocusGN, a spokesperson for Done has denied rumours that Betfred or Done will make a bid for the business.
However, the spokesperson suggests that Done may still place a bid on William Hill’s retail shops after the company was hit with an impairment charge of £800 million last year when its revenue dropped following the UK Government’s enforcement of a £2 stake limit on fixed-odds betting terminals (FOBTs).
The new reports of Done denying rumours of the bid suggest that Caesars Entertainment’s bid of £2.9 billion may be taken on. Although William Hill gave Caesars the green light for the acquisition, the bid is still subject to a shareholders vote as well as regulatory approval.
As we previously reported, Caesars Entertainment is making a bid on the British bookmaker to access the company’s sports betting services across the US, of which Caesars holds exclusive rights to operate under its brand name.
The US operator believes that the acquisition could generate between $600 and $700 million in revenue in 2021 for the company, and it already has plans to integrate the bookmaker’s US business with minimal job cuts.
What’s more, if the acquisition happens, Caesars Entertainment claims it will work on finding a different owner for all of William Hills’ non-US business which includes the bookmaker’s 1,400 betting shops as well as its online operations across Sweden, Spain, Italy, and the United Kingdom too.
William Hill chairman Roger Devlin said that Caesar Entertainment’s offer is the “best option” for the bookmaker since it comes at “an attractive price for shareholders”.
Speaking about the acquisition, Devlin said: “It recognises the significant progress the group has made over the last 18 months, as well as the risk and significant investment required to maximise the US opportunity given [the] intense competition in the US.”
William Hill has stated that it will continue to operate “business as usual” while the deal is subjected to regulatory approval and that all employees will be kept informed throughout the acquisitional process.
Devlin said: “For now, it is very much business as usual. Employees will be kept fully informed through this process. In terms of our UK and international businesses, we believe they have a strong future ahead, and we will work with Caesars to find suitable partners to further the long-term growth prospects of these businesses.”
Meanwhile, it was also reported that 888, the owner of gambling website 888 Casino, is looking at purchasing William Hill’s non-US business. 888’s purchase would see it grab all of William Hill’s betting shops and its online operations throughout Europe.
Itai Pazner, the Chief Executive at 888, said the company was in a “good position” for acquisitions before stating that it was going to “look at any asset” that could be relevant to the company including the opportunity of purchasing William Hill’s assets.
The news comes as the Mirror revealed that more than 450 high-street betting shops closed their doors this year. Stats from the Local Data Company reveal that there are now only 3,338 high-street betting shops in the UK right now, down from 3,801 at the end of 2019.
The UK tabloid claims the closures come from a surge in online gambling, the UK’s COVID-19 lockdown, as well as the recent changes made to FOBTs including the £2 stake limit.
Many believe that more betting shops and casinos will close down within the coming months, and plenty of gambling firms have already announced closures and job cuts as a result of dropping footfall, implications from coronavirus, and more.
William Hill announced back in May that it would not be reopening 119 of its shops after the UK COVID-19 lockdown was lifted. The Buzz Bingo chain announced in July that it would be closing 26 of its UK venues permanently.
Similarly, Genting Casino revealed in July that it was going to cut more than 1,000 jobs and shut three casinos, and Grosvenor Casino announced similar cuts too.
Meanwhile, the recent introduction of a COVID-19 curfew forcing all hospitality venues to close at 10 PM may lead to additional closures throughout the entire gambling industry, particularly as casinos complete most of their trade after the 10 PM cutoff time.
Last month, several UK casino bosses called on the UK Government to provide them with more help after the implementation of the curfew. The Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) warned that thousands of jobs are at risk as a result of the curfew and, although an extended Job Support Scheme was announced to help the firms, the firm insisted that casinos would prefer to trade than rely on Government subsidies.
Speaking about the new Job Support Scheme, Michael Dugher, the Chief Executive of the BGC, said in a statement: “The wage subsidy scheme will help in some way as the industry continues to reel from the curfew restrictions.
“Operations would far rather to be able to trade than rely on subsidies, but after a gruelling few days, this is some respite. Casinos are very proud of the high number of viable jobs that they sustain and now have a better chance of emerging on the other side of this curfew period, thanks to the Chancellor’s scheme.”