William Hill posts U.S. loss of $900,000, buys out online partner

William Hill Plc, the owner of 180 sports books and kiosks in Nevada, said Friday it will pay $643 million for full control of its successful online business.

The deal to buy out the 29 percent stake in William Hill Online held by software company Playtech Ltd., was the British bookmaker’s second deal in the past three months.

The company paid $689.8 million for the Australian and Spanish operations of online gambling rival Sportingbet Plc, a deal expected to close March 19.

William Hill Chief Executive Officer Ralph Topping said the bookmaker’s first steps into the U.S. market were ahead of projections. He said the integration and rebranding of the three companies into William Hill was completed on schedule.

He said wagering was ahead of projections, but margins were affected by National Football League results. Sports books handled $3.4 billion last year, according to the Nevada Gaming Control Board.

William Hill was licensed in June in Nevada, completing its $49 million acquisition of Las Vegas-based American Wagering Inc. and Brandywine Bookmaking LLC, as well as Sierra Development Co., trading as Club Cal Neva, in Reno.

The company earned $13.36 million but posted a net loss of $900,885 for the first six months of its U.S. operations. William Hill is also the exclusive risk manager of the Delaware sports lottery and the Marriott hotel in St. Kitts and provides hardware and software to sports books in Nevada.

Topping described the U.S. gaming market as bigger than most expect it to be.

The prospects for a regulated online gambling market in the United States improved when New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie signed a law legalizing Internet betting on Tuesday, days after Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval did the same thing.

Delaware could have its online betting business up and running by Sept. 30.

“Today marks a major milestone for William Hill as we propose taking full control of William Hill Online,” Topping said. “This move rounds off a successful 12 months, which have seen us take our fist steps into the U.S.”

Topping said the Sportingbet acquisition laid the foundation for growth in the Australian market. He did not discuss licensing in Nevada for William Hill Online.

William Hill will raise about $562.3 million in a rights issue to help fund the Playtech deal.

William Hill reported a pretax profit of $416.9 million in 2012, up from $281.3 million in 2011. Revenues rose 11.6 percent to $1.92 billion from $1.72 billion in 2011.

Contact reporter Chris Sieroty at csieroty@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3893. Follow @sierotyfeatures on Twitter.