May 8, 2018 / 6:54 AM / in 5 months

Roma, March Madness gift William Hill revenue bounce

(Reuters) - Roma’s shock defeat of Barcelona and a surge in U.S. March Madness college basketball betting drove a 12 percent rise in online net revenue for British bookmaker William Hill in the first 17 weeks of this year, the company said on Tuesday.

Net revenue at William Hill Plc (WMH.L) for the first 17 weeks of 2018 was 3 percent higher compared to the same period a year ago, the company said in a trading statement, as a recovery at its online business offset a decline in high street betting.

Shares in the company were just over 1 percent higher in early trading in London.

Roma surprised pundits last month by bouncing back from a 4-1 first leg defeat in the Champions League against the new Spanish champions to win the second leg 3-0 and the tie on goal difference. The bookmaker also said Arsenal’s dismal away performance in the Premier League this season has helped boost margins.

Its U.S. operations saw a 17 percent rise in the amount wagered thanks to a boost from basketball wagering during the annual college tournament.

Revenue from the company’s chain of betting shops fell 4 percent with amounts wagered slipping 13 percent, hurt by weaker performance in horse-racing.

William Hill also said it was still awaiting the outcome of the UK Triennial Review aimed at cutting the top stakes at Fixed Odd Betting Terminals (FOBTs).

An FOBT is a touch-screen machine that allows players to bet on the outcome of various games such as roulette. The machines have been dubbed the crack cocaine of gambling by campaigners who argue that they let players lose money too quickly, leading to addiction and wider social problems.

The government said in October it would reduce the maximum stake on in-shop fixed odds betting terminals (FOBTs) to between 2 and 50 pounds from 100 pounds to help tackle problem gambling.

Reporting by Rahul B in Bengaluru; editing by Patrick Graham

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