William Hill Suffers £820m Loss after Betting Terminals Crackdown

British bookmaker William Hill suffered a half-year loss thanks to the government’s decision to reduce the maximum stakes on fixed-odds betting terminals (FOBTs) from £100 to merely £2.

The company reported a loss of £883 million from the slash on FOBTs, which forms a part of the exceptional charges of $916 million. The addictive machines are one of William Hill’s main source of revenues.

The gambling firm suffered from a loss of £819.6 million before tax for the 6 months to 26 June, contrasting with the £93.6 million profit during the same period a year ago. This sent shares down more than 7% on Friday morning.

William Hill blamed the government for its plans, describing the regulatory change as “unprecedented”. The bookmaker also mentioned the progress it was making in expanding its market to America. The US Supreme Court recently lifted the ban on gambling on individual sporting events, paving the path for sports gambling, which has been illegal in many parts of the US.

The gambling company claimed that it had signed contracts with 11 Mississippi-based casinos and one other in West Virginia to run sports books. The first sports bet is scheduled to happen in Mississippi this month.

William Hill also stressed its new approach and effort put in reducing problem gambling. “Gambling-related harm is a serious issue and it is important that we face up to this challenge. We have set ourselves the ambition that nobody is harmed by gambling and set out a detailed programme of actions as we start out on this journey,” said Philip Bowcock, chief executive of William Hill.

FOBT, the crack cocaine of gambling

FOBTs, known as the “crack cocaine of gambling”, are notorious for being highly-addictive and its ability to take thousands of pounds away from players in just a few minutes.

The betting firm was fined £6.2 million for providing insufficient protection to consumers and its failure to stop money laundry back in February.

Bowcock accentuated the new opportunity found in the America market and said the company would continue to invest in the country. “We now have greater clarity over the challenges and opportunities that lie before us.”