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A History of William Hill

For many this is the first name in betting. In the days before the arrival to internet and Internet, William Hill betting shops were prevalent across British High Streets and those older than a certain age and who were still betting on the internet would most likely had a visit to one of their shops at some point.

They aren’t necessarily the oldest bookmaker around, but their story spans more than 80 years. So how did it all began and how did they develop into the well-known brand that we have to this day?

Beginnings: 1934 through 1940’s

The company was established in 1934 by a man named William Hill himself and in the early days before the business was legalized fully and the official history of the company states that it was established as a phone and postal service and that would have been a main aspect of the business in the early days.

William Hill, like many of his contemporaries, got started in bookmaking at a young age. While working as an apprentice in the BSA motorcycle factory at the time of World War I, he was able to drive around and take bets on his bicycle.

After the war had ended, Hill began to take his bookmaking efforts more seriously. He began to set up on race courses but at the time, he was far from his own level when it came to taking on professional punters and losing a ton of money!

Innovation From 1944 to the year 1960

In the meantime, as William Hill began to get more familiar with his business, he began from scratch and profitable trading enabled him to move offices to London. From there, the business was officially incorporated as ‘William Hill’ and the real work began.

Hills were in the forefront of great betting inventions in these early days. was officially allowed to trade due to a legal loophole permitted the use of credit and postal betting so it was not involving cash.

In 1944, a new invention was introduced. Hill created the very first football with fixed odds coupon and a separate football area of the company was established.

Out in the Open from 1961 to 1969

The legalization of betting shops in the UK in May 1961 and in the following months the practice of placing bets became more open. Even though betting had been thriving regardless of rules and regulations, this led to an inevitable explosion, with new patrons happy to come on board now that it was no longer banned.

Unexpectedly, when you consider that they were at the forefront of technology for over three decades by the time It took a bit of time to William Hill to get involved and their first premises were not established in the next five years – in the year 1966.

It is believed that Mr. Hill himself – who was a fervent socialist, was concerned about the distractions that betting shops would bring to the everyday person. It was however at this time that the direct battle against Ladbrokes was being lost. William Hill could no longer call themselves the ‘World’s Biggest Bookmaker’ and it was Hill’s best friend Jack Swift who finally persuaded Hill of the enormous potential that lay ahead in this new part of the business. William Hill William Hill organisation acquired a significant amount of stores by the latter half of the 1960’s, and the expansion continued with acquisitions of smaller independent businesses – finally hitting a high of over 15,000.

1971 – 1999: Changes

William Hill has, himself, been the driving force behind the company and continued to move things forward. He retired as late as 1970, having spent more than five decades working in the industry , before passing in the year 1973.

From 1971 onwards, the company changed hands, originally being acquired in 1971 by Sears Holdings before Grand Metropolitan was able to take over the business in 1988. A year later, Brent Walker acquired the company and ran William Hill for eight years and the company continued to grow its collection of betting shops until a major change in how we placed bets.

1999 to present The Digital Revolution

Though they’re an old-fashioned bookmaker which still has a physical presence on the UK High Street – William Hill were among the first bookmakers to take part in the digital revolution and set up an online website.

In 2000 they launched an offshore phone betting service as the gambling community started to look beyond the traditional methods and seek out new ways to place bets. This may not appear to be something that is particularly exciting in our modern times, but the truth is that telephone betting and any type of commerce held ‘over the phone was thought to be rather revolutionary prior to the turn of the century.

As with all good bookies the technological aspect has grown to include mobile gaming and an app, while innovative ideas such as live betting have also been accepted. The casino website was also launched and although many of us still like to go to a physical shop occasionally, William Hill’s internet operation is one of the fastest and easiest to use.

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The Present Day

When you examine William Hill’s most recent list of publicly announced figures, they are quite staggering. The accounts for 2015 show total revenue at PS1,590.9 million and operating profit of PS283.3 million, all of which resulted in a total profit that was PS189.9 million. All over the world they employ around 16,000 employees. They are clearly one of the major companies in the industry.

William Hill have become involved in numerous sports sponsorships, but they have been relatively quiet in terms of football – a shirt deal with Malaga during 2009 represented a unique attempt at this type of advertising. If you had seen the Scottish Cup Final as recently as the month of May in 2016, you’d have seen William Hill as the principle sponsor of the trophy.

The horse racing industry has benefited from Hill’s sponsorship over time while in the world of literature The William Hill Sports Book of the Year is a highly sought after prize.

They are a company that clearly wants to give back to the sporting world having made the most of it for more than 75 years.