|William Hill has announced that business is good this year despite increased competition from betting exchanges. The British bookies predict that full-year profits will be at the ‘top-end’ of expectations, thanks in no small part to their virtual racing channels, telephone gambling, and Internet operations. Chief executive David Harding said: “The group has had an excellent trading year and all three divisions have delivered good levels of growth in gross win and profitability. We look forward to further progress in 2004” And well he might - analysts expect the group to double its pre-tax profits to £167.7m for the year and shares in the bookmakers have nearly doubled since it floated in June 2002 to a high of 448.5p today.|
The bookmakers have benefited from the gradual relaxation of gambling laws. Last November the government allowed them to continue employing fixed odds terminals in their shops despite pressure from the anti-gambling lobby. They aim to build on the pattern of growth through further product diversification in the coming year, and have recently announced plans to keep their shops open on Sundays.