Football losses and TurfTV costs depress William Hill profits by 10%

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The bookmaker William Hill blamed the cost of Turf TV and disappointing telephone betting for a 10 per cent drop in first-half profits and said that gross wins had been affected by a poor Euro 2008 football championship.

The group said it had incurred an incremental cost of £5m for the 26 weeks to 1 July for a new contract to stream live coverage of horse races – for which Turf TV, the betting shop broadcaster, has exclusive rights – into its betting shops.

William Hill's chief executive, Ralph Topping, was critical of the new service, which had contributed to a fall in racing bets in its shops since it was introduced on 1 January. He said: "Previously 50 per cent of our business came from racing and now it is 47 per cent."

For the 26 weeks to 1 July, William Hill posted profits on ordinary activities before charges and exceptional items down 10 per cent to £145.1m, which was in line with expectations.

The group's gross win for the period was up 4 per cent to £516m, which included its retail channel growing gross wins by 5 per cent to £421.3m. William Hill said that the performance of its telephone betting was "disappointing" and was affected by adverse sporting results over the period.

Mr Topping said that William Hill had a weak Euro football championship 2008, when it lost in 20 of the 31 matches. "I would rather not talk about it. The amount of Prozac being given out as treatment at the company has gone up."

Mr Topping said he was "not seeing" punters cutting back on their betting activity, which is partly because the average value of a bet it takes is just £8.

He confirmed William Hill's interest in buying some shops from the state-owned bookmaker, the Tote, although competition laws would prevent it from purchasing Tote's 540 outlets.

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