William Hill Expects Soccer Betting Boom on Leicester Effect

  • CEO says he expects next season's market to be `bulging'
  • Industry's worst Cheltenham weighed on results; stock down

William Hill Plc Chief Executive Officer James Henderson predicted a boost to betting on next season’s Premier League after Leicester City defied odds of 5,000-1 to win this year’s English soccer crown.

“I would expect the market for next season to be bulging,” Henderson said in a phone interview Wednesday after the bookmaker maintained a reduced profit forecast for the year.

William Hill, Britain’s largest betting-shop owner, lost about 2 million pounds ($3 million) on the Premier League after having to pay out on 25 wagers placed on Leicester at long odds. The success of such a big outsider has generated headlines around the world, and the publicity is likely to benefit bookmakers as fans bet on their team to pull off the feat next season.

“It was similar to Dettori Day,” Henderson said, referring to the day in 1996 when jockey Frankie Dettori won all seven races at an Ascot horse race meeting at combined odds of more than 25,000-1, costing the betting industry more than 30 million pounds.

William Hill’s net revenue fell 3 percent in 17 weeks ended April 26, hurt by the industry’s worst ever Cheltenham horse-racing festival in March and unfavorable soccer results in Europe.

The company continues to expect 2016 operating profit of 260 million pounds to 280 million pounds, a forecast it reduced in March after new rules made it easier for online gamblers to take a breather from their betting accounts.

The shares fell 5.9 percent to 305.1 pence at 12:25 p.m. in London, extending this year’s drop to 23 percent.

Leicester fans will not have the chance to back their heroes at such fanciful prices next season. William Hill has the team at only 25-1 to repeat its success, while the odds of Leicester being relegated from the top tier have lengthened to 33-1.

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