August 9, 2019 / 6:28 AM / 4 months ago

William Hill profit hit by regulatory cap, U.S. expansion costs

FILE PHOTO: A branded sign is displayed outside a William Hill betting shop in London, Britain July 25, 2016. REUTERS/Neil Hall

(Reuters) - William Hill (WMH.L) posted lower first-half profit on Friday, as a regulatory cap on fixed odds betting terminals and more costs to expand in the U.S. took a toll on the gambling group.

The company, which plans to cut about a third of its betting shops and jobs in Britain, said adjusted operating profit fell 33% to 76.2 million pounds for the six months ended June 26, as the government cut the maximum stake permitted on fixed-odds terminals, dubbed the “crack cocaine” of gambling by their critics.

William Hill, which is also exploring potential partnerships in the U.S., now expects adjusted operating profit for the year to be in the middle of a range of 50 million pounds to 70 million pounds.

Britain cut the maximum stake allowed to 2 pounds in April after complaints that the machines, which had previously let gamblers bet up to 100 pounds every 20 seconds, were highly addictive and allowed players to rack up big losses.

British betting companies have been pushing into the United States after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned a federal ban on sports betting.

“We continue to expand rapidly in the U.S., both in Nevada and in the new states, with over $1 billion wagered with us in the first half. We are now live in eight states and will expand into at least two more states in H2,” Chief Executive Officer Philip Bowcock said.

The bookmaker said non-UK markets now contribute a third of online revenue, helped by the acquisition of Mr Green. It expects mid-single digit revenue growth in its online business.

Reporting by Tanishaa Nadkar in Bengaluru; Editing by Bernard Orr

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