Online player 888 nears victory in race for William Hill’s UK operations

William Hill’s UK operations are close to being snapped up by online player 888 Holdings following an auction ordered by the company’s US owner.

William Hill’s non-US activities, including its 1,400+ shops and web-based activities in the UK, were up for grabs in the contest which was initiated by Caesars Entertainment after it acquired the firm in a £2.9bn deal last year.

Sky News had reported in July how there were understood to be four players left in the race: 888, Betfred, Apollo Global Management and Germany’s Tipico.

William Hill was founded in 1934 and has expanded its interests beyond sports betting to online gambling. Pic: WH

888 revealed on Tuesday that it was in “advanced discussions” with Caesars but cautioned there was no certainty of a deal.

It released the statement shortly after a report by The Times that 888 had beaten off Apollo in the last round and was to pay more than £2bn.

The sale had been expected to generate proceeds for Caesars of above £1.5bn.

888 shares were more than 2% higher on the news.

It is unclear whether the company sees value in William Hill’s high street presence given COVID-19 disruption to store operations and the regulatory crackdown on controversial industry-wide activities such as fixed-odds betting terminals.

There are 8,000 people employed in the business in the UK.

888 is most likely to have been focused on the web operations, which include a sportsbook and casino.

The William Hill name dates back to the 1930s, when its eponymous founder launched the business as a postal and telephone-based betting service.

It opened its first betting shops in 1966, five years after their presence on high streets became legal.


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