William Hill today said the World Cup was one of the best for bookmakers in 40 years after the tournament helped drive a 7% hike in half-year sales at its betting shops.
While the group enjoyed a “very strong” World Cup performance across its retail estate in June, this was offset by its worst ever Royal Ascot.
It suffered losses on the horseracing event, which followed a weak Grand National for the group in April, leaving betting shop operating profits around 8% lower in the first half of the year.
Ralph Topping, chief executive of William Hill, said: “Whilst it was our worst ever Royal Ascot, with a loss on the meeting, the World Cup proved to be one of the best for bookmakers in 40 years.
“Overall, we have seen a good group performance in the period, with a particularly strong contribution from William Hill Online.”
The group is expecting to hold overall underlying earnings firm in the half-year – at around £135m (€159m), up marginally on the £134.6m (€158m) seen a year earlier.
William Hill Online offset the poor horseracing results for the group, notching up net sales growth of around 24% and an estimated 43% lift in operating profits during the 26 weeks to June 29.
The company has more than 2,300 betting offices in the UK and Ireland, while its online arm provides sports betting, casino games, poker and bingo.