William Hill Might Sell On-Course Pitches for £2.5 Million
William Hill appears to be on the verge of selling its on-course pitches for £2.5 million, removing one of the most famous names from the on-course market. The move is seen by many as another sign of the increasing irrelevance of racetrack betting in today’s saturated gaming market.
The decision to leave the on-course pitches is going to increase the debate on the long-term future of the starting point (SP). The The SP was defined recently by The Guardian as “the market price available to ‘good money'”, but the practice is based on the numbers collected from racebook betting rings.
Cash bets at high-street shops pay the SP to bettors, while online bookmakers often pay the “Best Price Available”, which is the SP on many races. This is determined by the aggregate of the bookies who are live at a racetrack.
William Hill’s Role in Starting Points
During the Cheltenham Festival and other major racing events, the number of on-course bookmakers reaches as many as 200. At the minor events, as few as a half-dozen bookmakers might be available to establish the SP. William Hill’s on-course bookmaker often is the only major bookie at the event.
That means William Hill’s on-course pitches are pivotal in establishing the legitimacy of the starting point at minor racing events. Without William Hill to lend its credibility, the SP might become quite precarious for minor races.
William Hill Profile
The decision by William Hill has been a long time coming. William Hill is the second-oldest name in British betting, having been founded in 1934. When the real life William Hill died in 1971, his bookmaker company had its IPO on the London Stock Exchange.
Since then, the company has changed hands several times, but William Hill UK has always had its on-course betting shops. Over the decades, its off-course bettings shops and their FOBTs have become more prominent, but racebook bettors still could look forward to on-course betting.
Online Racebook Betting
With the inception of online sportsbooks and sports betting exchanges 15 to 20 years ago, on-course racetrack betting began a long decline. That decline sped up when mobile smartphones became mainstream and accelerated further when live in-play betting apps became the rage.
The average UK racebook bettor now has so many alternatives that a trip to the racetrack itself seems quaint. The fact William Hill would contemplate sellling its on-course pitches for only £2.5 million might be the most depressing fact in the whole matter.
Betfred Leaves the Betting Pools
William Hill is not the only one. Earlier this year, Betfred announced it was all-but-leaving the horse race betting pools. Fred Done went through the histrionics of why the racetracks were doing Betfred wrong when the talk of a new setup was discussed, but Betfred would not be leaving if the betting pools were still a major cash generator. The old ways of betting are going by the wayside.
William Hill Focuses on US Gaming
For the past year, William Hill’s executives have said they plan on focusing more on the United States gaming market. With the likely expansion of US sports betting to dozens of states, William Hill US’s operations will become a much bigger percentage of the company’s revenues. The oncoming increased regulations on FOBTs only speeds up that decision.
The seriousness of William Hill’s intentions were made clear earlier this year when it sold its Australian operations. Aussie politicians were increasing taxes on gaming revenues, but the pullout from such a traditional big market is a sign William Hill is diverting significant resources to the US sportsbook industry.
If Australia is worth chunking, then a stake in on-course pitches worth only £2.5 million is certainly on the chopping block. As the old song goes, the times they are a-changing. William Hill has faced enough struggles in the past 5 years that it must do what it can to maintain its market share, but many British racebook bettors will lament the decision of one of its oldest bookmakers.