William Hill cheered by record World Cup bets

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Bookmaker William Hill today said the amount of bets placed on this year’s World Cup jumped 80 per cent compared with the last time the tournament was held.

The firm took in £208 million of wagers online, over the phone and through its network of more than 2,400 stores during the competition in Brazil, an increase of £93m on South Africa 2010.

The “very positive” outcome from the football extravaganza helped revenues at William Hill grow 7 per cent to £805m for the six months to 1 July. Operating profits dipped 2 per cent to £177m, although this came in slightly ahead of City forecasts.

In April, the group said it would be closing 109 branches following a surprise rise in duty on betting machines in this year’s Budget. So far 70 outlets have been shut, with a further 12 to close “very shortly”.

Today also saw a change in leadership at Britain’s biggest bookmaker, with company veteran James Henderson succeeding Ralph Topping who has stepped down after 44 years with the firm, including six as chief executive.

Henderson, formerly operations director, said: “We will always face regulatory challenges given our focus on regulated markets, as well as volatility in sporting results.

“I will be looking hard at how we can continue to create shareholder value in developing a focused but internationally orientated gambling group.”

Investors will receive an interim dividend of 4p a share on 5 December, up from 3.7p last time.