Online 'breathers' cause pain at William Hill

Mar 25, 2016 11:21 AM

New rules making it easier for online gamblers to take a breather from their betting accounts are hurting profit at William Hill Plc, and the pain is set to intensify.

Profit for the year will be below analysts’ estimates, weighed down by a “marked acceleration” in the number of accounts being suspended at the holder’s request. Losses incurred at last week’s Cheltenham horse-racing festival are also contributing to the projected earnings shortfall, The shares fell as much as 14 percent to the lowest in four months.

Late last year, the U.K. Gambling Commission started forcing online gaming companies to let gamblers exclude themselves from their account via the website, rather than having to contact a call center, Bloomberg News reports.

Timeouts have increased 50 percent since the start of the year, with about 3,000 accounts a week being affected, Chief Executive Officer James Henderson said on a conference call Wednesday.

The suspended accounts have so far cut profit by about 2 million pounds ($2.8 million), Henderson said, though the bookmaker expects them to reduce earnings for the year by as much as 25 million pounds.

The Cheltenham event was costly for bookmakers, with many winning favorites making it a week to forget for the odds- makers. The industry as a whole lost about 60 million pounds, and William Hill was down on all four days, Henderson said.

Phil Hevener has been writing about the Nevada gaming business for more than 30 years. Email: [email protected].