Lower profit is odds-on for William Hill

WILLIAM Hill yesterday warned its full year profits would miss previous forecasts after it lost money on a series of horse racing events.<br /><br />The bookie yesterday said that pre-tax profits had fallen to &pound;91.5m in the half to June 30, down from &pound;111.1m a year earlier. <br /><br />William Hill said that, as a result of the recession, fewer people had been visiting betting shops meaning &ldquo;profits for the full year from the retail channel are likely to be lower than previously expected&rdquo;.<br /><br />The absence of the football season means the firm is relying heavily on horse racing for its income.<br /><br />But the group admitted it had lost money on all recent races, with the exception of the Grand National. It also lost &pound;1m on just one race, which it ironically sponsored &ndash; the William Hill Lincoln at Doncaster.<br /><br />Chief executive Ralph Topping said: &ldquo;We have delivered a solid trading performance in the first half, in spite of the tough economic environment and a mixed set of sporting results. <br /><br />&ldquo;However, in July the performance was affected by weakness in horse racing margins and quieter trading on Saturdays and Sundays outside the football season.&rdquo;<br /><br />The group yesterday confirmed it was moving the online betting division of its business offshore to Gibraltar to avoid new tax laws.<br /><br />William Hill said that it had paid a total of &pound;300m in tax to the government last year, 15 per cent of its income. But offshore firms, like Paddy Power, pay just 1.5 per cent, meaning they can offer better odds. <br /><br />If Ladbrokes and Coral also flee the country, the government could lose &pound;50m in duty.