William Hill is the largest betting company in the world. In the UK alone, they own 2,325 betting establishments. They also run an online gambling website that operates in a variety of languages and currencies. The site provides horse race betting, sports betting betting, financial betting, casino, poker, bingo, and skill and arcade games all on one site and player account bank. As a company publicly-traded by the London Stock Exchange (WMH.L) It is able to be verified. In 2011, they served over 1.3 million gamblers and made profits over PS146.5 million. What is the process that allows a company to grow to that big? The answer will be revealed in our account of the story of William Hill.
William Hill (founder) Born in 1903
The William Hill story begins with the date of the 16th July 1903 date of birth for their founding father and name, William Hill. William Hill was born in Birmingham, England, the one of the 13 children of an extremely strict family. As a young boy, he attended Oldknow Road School before leaving to work on his uncle’s farm at age of twelve. Later, as young, was employed by BSA which was based in Birmingham. Perhaps irritated by his strict family, overcrowded house, and work, at age 16 Hill lied about his age and jumped onto a train to join the Black and Tans.
Legend has it that William Hill developed a passion for horseracing and bookmaking at the age of just. While working with BSA work, he was introduced to betting. While working for the Black and Tans the BSA, he was stationed at Mallow, County Cork, Ireland. There, he would spend in his spare time taking bets from Moss Foley’s pub. On his return from work after work, he worked in the bookmaking business on a limited scale.
Hill’s initial attempt at becoming a legal bookmaker came in 1925. He was an on-course bookmaker on Birmingham. Birmingham tracks. Because of his inability to lay off a couple large bets, he soon ended up losing all his capital. The year 1929 saw him retreated to London to start placing bets on greyhounds, which helped him save enough money to invest in and eventually become a partner in Northolt Park Racetrack (that would be famous for its racetracks for pony).
William Hill (Company) Founded 1934
The year was 1934 when William Hill opened his first off-track betting shop located in Park Lane, London. This was the first step towards the company that we know today as William Hill. At the time it was illegal. Hill utilized a loophole within the law that allowed “credit only” betting. This was done by requiring punters pay for cash (in person or via postal mail) months in advance. They were cashed only after the event had taken place, which made it completely legal. Hill also had legal recourse to bounced checks.
Hill was able to continue to develop his business based on “trust”. At the time, gambling debts weren’t enforceable by law, therefore bookies didn’t even need to pay punters legally. There were many frauds, his business grew to some 500,000 serviced by the 1960’s thanks to his reputation as an honest businessman that paid the winners.
The Invention of Fixed Odds Football Betting
The year 1944 was the time that William Hill became the first bookie to offer fixed odds on football betting. The story of Ladbrokes reported elsewhere often fails to credit him. It is true that Ladbrokes was the first UK licensed betting shop to offer fixed odds. However, William Hill was doing so as a credit bookmaker much earlier. In fact, court documents show that he was before Ladbrokes, and he successfully was able to sue them in the early 1960’s for copying his ticket. Being the good sport that he was, he asked for only PS1 damages plus costs, and The House of Lords granted.
William Hill as a Breeder
By the end of the 1930’s, William Hill had become the first ever self-made millionaire from the world of books. In the course of establishing his book-making empire and pursuing his passion for breeding horses. He purchased a stud in Whitsbury situated in Hampshire during 1943 (Nimbus) which in 1949 , won the Two Thousand Guineas and Derby. In 1945, he purchased the Sezincote stud in Gloucestershire that won the 1953 Derby. He also was a winner of a Classic by winning the Classic with Cantelo during the year 1959 St. Leger and the Gimcrack Stake and Champagne Stake in 1958 with Be Watchful.
William Hill the First Ever PLC Bookmaker
In 1954, William Hill moved his business into a shell company called Holder’s Investment Trust to secure an account as the first book maker to be publicly traded by the London Stock Exchange. From 1955 to 1961 Hill was able to sell a small portion of his shares at the region of PS5 million.
William Hill Personal Life
In order to explain William Hill’s recent move into the betting shop industry, it’s important to cover his personal life. In 1923, he got married to Ivy Burley (nicknamed Daisy) who worked as a hairdresser in Birmingham. They had their first , and only child the following year, Kathleen Hill (nicknamed Bubbles) who later became Kathleen Lavinia after her marriage. She died at 37 years old. In the Saint Leonard’s Parish Church of Whitsbury, located near the track where he purchased his first stud, to this day bears the words:
“To the glory to the Glory of God and in Loving Memory Of Their Daughter Kathleen Lavinia, Born 10th February 1924, died 27 November 1961. The church was restored and refurnished the year 1963. William and Ivy Hill”.
Hill wasn’t a money hungry, coldhearted bookie. During his lifetime, he ran and bred horses with a passion, took regular fishing trips and sponsored youth cricket leagues. He was a fervent Roman Catholic and Socialist. When the UK allowed betting shops to be legalized, starting on May 1st 1961, he was uncompromising against betting shops. He even went all the way to calling betting shops a scourge on society which benefited the poor man. In his view, betting was a pastime and competition for those who could pay for it. He was a great bookie and made millions many times over his life due to hard work, confidence, and running an honest business.
By 1966, however betting shops had become all over the UK, that traditional bookies had no choice but to adapt. Hill invested in the wagering shop empire that is known today. In 1970, Hill retired and died the following year.
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Ownership Following William Hill’s Demise
The day that William Hill died on October 16th 1971, the company was taken over from Sears Plc. A lot of William Hill history articles associate it with Sears Holdings Group which operates 4,000 retail stores under Sears and Kmart brand names. It’s not the identical Sears. The Sears that acquired William Hill is a UK conglomerate within the retail shoes business. Their current brands include Barratts and Priceless Shoes. Under Sears management, the company grew to over 1800 legal betting stores by 1988.
In 1989, William Hill was purchased by Brent Walker. In the same year, they were made the official bookmaker for golf’s PGA European Tour with betting shops on the course. During the 1990’s, betting shops were more acceptable to the public across the UK. They no longer had to have their windows blacked out, and could instead display advertising and odds for the public to see. The law prohibiting the establishments from opening on Sundays was also removed; the ability to advertise to the public in television, newspapers, as well as on the radio was also granted. Private Scratchcards were made legal, and they soon became available at William Hill stores.
Since betting is now a mainstream activity, Walker cashed in, selling Nomura (Grand Bookmaking Corporations) in exchange for PS700m. The company was then sold 2 more years after that in 1999, to Cinven in 1999 and CVC Partners for PS825 million. Then, in 2002, William Hill was successfully floated to the London Stock Exchange for approximately PS1 billion.
William Hill Online
In 2000, William Hill launched an off-shore betting shop that was a phone-in. It utilized a call centre located in Athlone, Ireland, which allowed bets on William Hill International based in Antigua where the tax was just 3%. The same year they were the first UK bookmaker that offered tax-free bets on the Internet. Strangely enough, despite being recognized by every bettors as William it was necessary to register the domain willhill.com. That domain williamhill.com was previously in use by the winery located in California. The winery shut down its use in late 2005. William Hill the bookmaker acquired it in 2009. They then redirected the brand they’d built.
You can imagine that this was already the largest betting brand worldwide, and their growth as an online-based company was a natural evolution. Today, there are a variety of different betting sites that offer multiple languages but at the time William Hill entered the market on a massive scale in 2000 there were only a few. They had already gained a lot of attention internationally and were the biggest bookmaker operating in the UK. The growth of their business accelerated when they the company was established in 2000, and they now support English, Spanish, French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Japanese, Norwegian as well as Finnish languages. Then, in the late 2000s, there was an addition of an online casino and then the poker rooms online in 2003. On April 17th, 2002 William Hill signed a deal with the British Horseracing Board for the commercial use of the data. The racing information was made available on their online website.
After a successful flotation on the London Stock Exchange in 2002, numerous acquisitions followed. In September of 2002, William Hill purchased Sunderland Greyhound Stadium. The following March, Brough Park Greyhound Stadium was added. In 2005, it bought 624 betting establishments from Stanley Leisure for PS504 million and had to dispose of 78 of them due to an anti-competitive practice ruling. In 2008, it went into partnership with the largest casino software and poker operating network, Playtech.
In the above paragraph, William Hill remains the world’s largest betting brand. The site is accessible in 24 languages, 10 currencies, and provides horse race and sport bets, betting on financial markets casino, poker, bingo, skill games, and arcade games. This is certainly one of the safest and most well-regulated websites for gamblers who gamble online.