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William Hill (517p) has had a spectacular run over the
past 12 months. With the stock more than doubling in price, the company
was propelled into the blue chip FTSE100 index last week.
Equally striking has been its trading performance
performance. In March it unveiled a more than doubling in annual pre-tax
profit before exceptionals to £171m.
Changes in the law have allowed the installation of
upmarket "fruit machines" in betting shops on which customers can play
games such as roulette and other casino games. The company has said it
is considering share buybacks to boost value. Investors have also been
encouraged by the prospect of further legislative changes, with a
gambling bill expected to become law in 2006, which should further
liberalise the market.
But while the prospect of legislative change has sent
the stock ever higher, in the longer-term it could have the opposite
effect, by increasing competition from other gaming companies,
especially casinos (although last week MPs and peers recommended limits
on numbers of gaming machines within the new casinos).
Reform of the gambling laws should make it easier to
open casinos in the UK and foreign operators are preparing to do so once
laws are relaxed. This could could take punters’ money from the
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2004 Online Casino News Archive