William Hill Produces Strong Results After Online And Overseas Push

Despite money being tight, it appears the British public still loves to place a bet, after William Hill, Britain's largest bookmaker, said its operating profit increased by 20% in 2012.

The bookmaker's success was driven by expansion into online gaming and overseas markets, helping it to forecast an operating profit of £330 million for the 53-week period to 1 January, 2013.

And the expansion looks set to continue this year, as William Hill has put £454m aside to acquire the Australian arm of online gambling company Sportingbet, as well an option to take over the company's Spanish operation.

"Whichever other parts of household budgets may be under pressure, people are finding more money for a flutter at the bookies, judging by the success William Hill is having in growing both its high street and online revenue lines," Nick Hood, business analyst at Company Watch told the Huffington Post UK.

"Its international expansion is progressing well, which will reduce dependence on the flat-lining UK economy, while the plan to take full control of their online business by buying out their joint venture partner, Playtech looks like a sensible piece of commercial housekeeping."

Britain's high streets have witnessed a revival of bookies during the last two years thanks to improved technology, such as fixed term betting odds terminals, and better positioning on the nation's high streets.

Changes to licensing and planning laws have enabled betting shop operators to benefit from a recession-led increase in availability of premises – as other shops have disappeared from our streets, bookies have been able to relocate to higher-footfall locations that deliver more customers.

Betting brands have also worked hard to restore the social aspect of visiting a betting shop – proponents argue it's one of the few places that encourages a community to come together and doesn't involve alcohol.

During an investigation into the gambling industry by Huff Post UK in August 2012, a William Hill spokesman said while times are tough on the British high street, the contribution by bookies remains a crucial part of British economy, contributing £3.2 billion, and paying £941m in tax.