William Hill is to return the money it took from the government to furlough staff after a better than expected performance in the first half of the year.
The company, one of Britain’s biggest bookmakers, said it was repaying £24.5 million after seeing a “strong recovery” in its high street shops and online business following the resumption of live sport and the easing of lockdown. William Hill had furloughed more than 7,000 staff after the cancellation of sporting events brought the gambling industry to its knees.
William Hill has made the comments in its interim results, which show that net revenue fell 32 per cent year-on-year to £554 million in the first half of 2020, pushing the company to an underlying loss before tax of £14 million compared with a profit of £51 million last year.
The results look better than the City expected. They provide further evidence that bookmakers weathered lockdown well thanks to their online offerings and have subsequently benefited from the return of live sports, including horse racing and Premier League football.
However, William Hill has warned that it does not expect footfall on high streets to return to pre-Covid levels and therefore will not reopen 119 shops that were closed during lockdown. It said the “majority” of staff working the shops will be “redeployed within the estate”. William Hill has more than 1,500 shops overall.