Gaming machines push the right buttons for William Hill - Wednesday 30th of April 2008

Extended winter opening hours helped to increase William Hills gross win by 7 per cent in its 2,200-plus betting shops since the start of the year. Gaming machines were the star performers.

Reporting no sign of any impact from consumer belt-tightening, the bookmaker said its gaming machines had brought in a 16 per cent increase in gross win - the amount of money wagered minus the amount paid out in winnings - in the 16 weeks to April 22.

Ivor Jones, analyst with Evolution Securities, said the machines were proving a compelling product for punters "and fuels our nagging concerns that the regulatory risks are rising".

The addiction risks posed by gaming machines are the subject of a government review. Fixed-odds betting terminals make up about a third of bookmakers profits.

Total gross win rose 5 per cent. The Cheltenham festival brought in results in line with expectations and the Aintree Grand National meeting produced a reasonable outcome, William Hill said.

Telephone gross win was down 16 per cent, the result of falls in the amount bet on horseracing and a strong 2007 performance.

Costs in its first half will be higher than cost inflation guidance for 2008 of 4 to 6 per cent, the result of winter evening opening and the Turf TV contract, as well as comparatively lower costs in the same period last year.

Gross win on its interactive sportsbook fell, but growth in online gaming gave William Hill a 5 per cent increase across its interactive platform.

The joint venture in Spain has received a licence for Madrid. The shares rose 4¾p to close at 395¾p.

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