Caesars plans to sell off William Hill shops outside United States

William Hill’s presence as a giant of the British betting scene looks set to shrink as the company’s new owners, Caesars Entertainment, push on with plans to sell off its major European assets.

Talk of a potential mass sale grew ever since rumours first emerged regarding Caesars’ plans to purchase William Hill, and Yogonet.com has reported that does indeed appear to be the case.

The auction would include around 1,400 brick-and-mortar betting sites in the United Kingdom, although it’s suggested William Hill’s online businesses in Europe would also be part of the sale, which is estimated to bring in around $2.1 billion (£1.5 billion).

That’s more than half the $3.7 billion (£2.9 billion) price that Caesars paid to buy out the betting firm, a deal that was completed in April following months of speculation.

CNN first reported in September 2020 that Caesars was in line to take over the UK betting firm, having already boasted a 20 percent stake in William Hill’s United States-based businesses.

Caesars will now take total control of those U.S. ventures, with the betting boom continuing to rise across the pond as more and more states welcome gambling legislation in some form or another.

A downward trend in profits saw William Hill decide against reopening a chunk of it’s 1,400-strong betting shops last year following the first UK lockdown caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

COVID-19 has had a drastic impact on the gambling industry and seen bettors transition more exclusively to digital mediums, meaning many in-person sites won’t drive the same business they once did.

Speaking about the decision to keep 119 of the company’s brick-and-mortar sites shut after the first lockdown, William Hill’s chief executive Ulrik Bengtsson said: “It’s clear that Covid has an effect on footfall on the High Street. We are very much aware of that. We think footfall will see a permanent decline of 10-15% and that’s baked into all of our assumptions.”

SWL has also tracked the rise of esports as a functional gambling market, and customers betting in person is expected to become less and less common in future.

The auction for William Hill’s UK Sports betting assets enterprise is still expected to attract plenty of attention despite those trends, with Betfred, 888 Holdings and Apollo Global Management, an alternative investment manager firm, among those in early contention to win their business.

Apollo was one of the companies understood to have launched a rival offer to buy William Hill last year, but Caesars’ threat of pulling out of their joint-venture worked in getting their bid accepted.

Sports in the United Kingdom and the U.S. are returning to a state of normality following the pandemic, though fans are still only permitted in limited numbers in many sports.

That being said, lots of casinos – many of which operate William Hill sportsbooks on-site – have long been open for business as usual, guaranteeing a certain amount of footfall for those bookmakers.

While William Hill’s UK and European business could be up for grabs, it’s expected that Caesars will only look to add to the brand’s 170 sites currently operating across 13 states in the U.S.

Image © AcabashiCreative Commons CC-BY-SA 4.0; Source: Wikimedia Commons

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