ORIGINS

William Hill Old ShopIt all began in 1934, at a time when betting activities and gambling in general were rather shady. There was no governing body for the industry, bookies were not legally bound to honor their payments and the system lacked regulation. Seizing upon the opportunity, Birmingham-native William Hill founds the current company in 1934 as an organization that refused to deal in cash and only accepted checks in advance of betting events. Despite still being technically illegal and also a small operation, the firm was gaining credibility and the betting system employed explored loopholes, like postal or credit betting, which were not forbidden by British law. The telephone was the main device involved in receiving wagers and generally communicating any useful information, thus further removing WH from the stereotypically suspicious perception that bookies were assigned during those times.

INITIAL PROGRESS

Building up on that, the establishment managed to not only remain in the market, but also acquire such great attributes as trustworthiness, honesty and expertise. They were the driving force behind successes achieved during the following three decades and afforded William the founder the opportunity to constantly gain capital (unlike his business ventures before ’34). Since horses were his passion, he was also able to start breeding some high-performance ones that won races throughout the ’40s and ’50s. Mr. Hill even lived to witness the legalization of sports betting. In 1960, the British government passed the Betting and Gaming Act that provided for the legal opening of betting shops beginning on May 1 of the following year. The initiative was supported by society and also by the Church of England, but when put into action, it did not enthuse Mr. Hill (he even declared legal betting shops to be “a cancer on society”, possibly due to their high number and sometimes not-so-respectable venues). Only in 1966 did he finally assent to the idea, opening his first betting house. William Hill Betting HouseThe move came more as a response to competitors, who had gained a significant edge on him, but it also allowed Mr.Hill to improve his still small business during his final years, as he retired in 1970. Television greatly aided the company right after going legal, as it transformed the entire stigma associated with gambling. Now it was a leisure activity: the shops were equipped with TV sets and offered other amenities, thus becoming cool hang-outs, quite a change from the smoky locales that always featured blacked-out, closed windows. Any event that had been wagered on could be watched live, one could have been tempted to bet just for the sake of the wide availability of live event coverage and the friendly atmosphere to be encountered at shops.

BECOMING A MARKET GIANT

As soon as Mr. William Hill was no longer active within the company, its ownership kept changing hands: in 1971, the year of its founder’s death, WH was acquired by the Sears Holdings Group. Their property rights extended only until 1988, when Grand Metropolitan bought the brand and merged it with another company owned by them, Mecca Bookmakers, under the name of William Hill. That format lasted considerably less – a year – since the firm was re-bought in 1989, this time having Brent Walker as its owner. In 1997, the Japanese bank Nomura mounted a leveraged buyout of 700 million GBP in order to become the next proprietor but only continued in that status for merely two years. Since 1999, the ownership remained unchanged, though.
Cinven Logo

Cinven invested in numerous high quality companies and their transactions have already passed the 70 billion EUR threshold

Cinven and CVC Capital Partners, a renowned venture capitalist company, came up with 825 million GBP during that year and ushered in a new era for William Hill. Well, an era divided into two sub-epochs: that of Chief Executive David Harding (up to 2008) and the one of Chief Executive Ralph Topping (ever since 2008). The former was marked by technological advancement and financial ups and downs, while the latter continued in new technology implementation and ingeniousness without the financial drama sometimes caused even by the CEO’s personal problems, among others. In 1998, just several months prior to the latest acquisition, William Hill went online: its first betting service thus organized was named Sportsbook and the online casino appeared in 2000, one of the first launched overall, adding much luster to the already bright image of the company. The variety of games is simply amazing and has constantly been improved and updated over the years. Traditional games like roulette, baccarat, or blackjack have been augmented by many popular-theme slot games: The Incredible Hulk, Iron Man, Pink Panther, etc. The Internet was becoming increasingly popular and that had a huge impact on William Hill’s activity, their site becoming diverse and offering more and more gaming opportunities, now in the range of hundreds.

THE ONLINE, RECENT ERA

William Hill Online LogoThe 2000s were altogether a great period for William Hill. In 2002, the company floated on the London Stock Exchange, a year later they purchased the Brough Park Greyhound Stadium and in 2005 the British government passed the Gambling Act that brought considerable ease to the operations. Later on during 2005, WH acquired Stanley Leisure PLC’s bookmaking operations in the UK and Ireland. In 2008, the company combined its online business with the purchased assets of PlayTech (an online software company), thus creating William Hill Online, the leader of online gaming and sports betting in Europe. During the same year, the new Sportsbook was launched with the help of Orbis technology. The decade closed in force for WH, as they raised more than £650 million by issuing bonds and solving balance sheet contingencies, moved their headquarters to Gibraltar (resulting in more favorable financial and legal conditions) and became the official sponsors of the Spanish football club Malaga FC. Ever since 2010, William Hill’s situation remained strong and in some respects improved. A couple of top corporate positions saw changes: Neil Cooper replaced Simon Lane as Finance Director and Gareth Davis succeeded Charles Scott as Chairman. Then a few significant transactions also took place: WH sold 50% of its joint venture stake in Spain to its partner Codere S.A., purchased three American bookmaking companies and announced the acquisition of one of the main competitor’s Australian and Spanish businesses. Furthermore, the company sold its remaining 15 shops in Ireland for €1.5 million. An important event took place in June 2012, when William Hill was granted a full gaming license in Nevada, the first European operator to obtain it. As one can see, William Hill is rich in both history and traditions, a quality not to be ignored when deciding to invest money, time and trust in a certain gaming company. Having taken the test of time, WH is now advancing into the future, being confident that it will only enrich their heritage. casino page horizontal banner