Australian Gambling – William Hill’s $35 million gamble to purchase Tom Waterhouse’s eponymous betting company appears to have paid off, with the UK giant’s Australian interests almost doubling its operating profit to nearly $9.8 million (pro-forma constant currency basis) in the first six months of 2014. And a bumper FIFA World Cup has flooded its coffers.

It’s good news on the Aussie front for the bookmaker, with wagering growing by 10 per cent, its unique active users up 21 per cent and new accounts up 14 per cent on the same period last year. The company attributes some of the growth to the re-launch of a “responsive design” website for Sportingbet.com.au and the successful integration of tomwaterhouse.com onto its books.

Waterhouse was last month appointed CEO of William Hill Australia and the company settled the earn-out schedule for tomwaterhouse.com ($5 million in cash). While the internal posturing has helped significantly on the Australian front, the glitz and glamour of the World Cup has been a God-send. Sportingbet, Centrebet and TomWaterhouse.com took in excess of $24 million in bets on the World Game’s pinnacle event.

That figure did pale in comparison to rival bookies Sportsbet ($74 million) and Betfair ($52 million) – part of a $287 million splurge by Australian punters on the Cup. While its Australian venture is steaming ahead, it appears the tightened restrictions on betting shops introduced in the UK, including a huge tax hike on fixed odds machines, have strangled William Hill’s home base interests.

It will have closed more than 100 shops that did not turn a profit by the end of the year, after recording a 2 per cent fall in operating profit (its overall revenue did rise by 7 per cent). That hasn’t deterred new chief executive officer James Henderson, who took over from Ralph Topping earlier this month.

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