William Hill makes bad bet on in-house platform

Betting shop William Hill has scrapped an 'inflexible' in-house technology platform, and taken a £21m charge in its 2007 results.


Betting shop William Hill has scrapped an 'inflexible' in-house technology platform, and taken a £21m charge in its 2007 results.

Technical problems with the platform forced the betting shop to wipe £10.6m from the operating profit of its interactive business for the year ended 1 January 2008.

William Hill will move from its existing in-house system, called NextGen, to a platform from supplier Orbis, having agreed a deal in January, when it originally warned of the problems.

The Orbis platform is already used by rivals Ladbrokes, Paddy Power and the Tote. William Hill expects to take £4m further restructuring charge this year as it abandons the NextGen system.

The new platform will be in place by the end of November, the firm said, assuring that it would "invest in programme management skills to ensure that we meet this implementation target".

William Hill admitted that it had struggled to keep up with competitors on the technology front. "The interactive sportsbook site has continued to be impacted by the relative inflexibility of our current technology configuration," it said in its results. "This inflexibility is most notable in respect of in-running betting where the limitations of our technology prevented us from matching the increasing number of in-running betting opportunities available from our competitors."

The report said while NextGen would deliver the expected benefits in due course, the implementation would require greater investment and take longer than originally envisaged. The review last November also identified that proven technology was available which could be implemented more rapidly and at a lower comparative cost.

The firm blamed "technology issues and a very competitive market" for a poor year for its online channel that saw revenues for the year to 31 December drop by £11m to £120m. Overall company revenues, for which the bulk was made up by William Hill bookmaker shops, rose 9% to £984m.

Total profits in the interactive division tumbled 17% to £51m, while overall group profits slipped £6m to £287m.

William Hill had also taken other measures to improve its online business. It restructured the interactive management team, as well as investing in site content including streaming events live. The amount of active online accounts at its website increased by 27,000 to 432,000 in the year.

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