Our history

William Hill founded the business in 1934.

Gambling – particularly on sporting events – is ingrained in our culture. You can find references to it by historians throughout the ages as far back as Herodotus, Western culture’s ‘Father of History’. The English language is peppered with phrases we use without thinking about which stem from our love of gambling – ‘you bet’, ‘I bet you are’, ‘put your money where your mouth is’.

A trusted brand

In earlier times most gambling was done behind closed doors. When William Hill founded the company in 1934, the industry had no governing body, and bookies were not even legally obliged to pay a customer’s winning bet. This, of course, was a great business opportunity: William Hill built a reputation on being knowledgeable, honest and trustworthy. The company started out as a postal / telephone betting service where a punter would send a bet with a cheque weeks in advance of an event.

New on the high street

In 1961, betting shops became legal, with William Hill joining the market in 1966. Shops were heavily regulated, however, to encourage people not to loiter. It was during this period that they got something of a reputation for being dens of iniquity with their blacked-out, closed windows, and murky, smoky atmosphere. With the arrival of television, however, betting became more of a leisure activity, with people spending time in betting shops to watch the races or the football. When the UK’s National Lottery began in 1994, placing a bet became a much more socially acceptable activity. As legislation changed, shops became bigger, lighter, and air conditioned, and started to include games as well as betting.

Betting goes online

1998 was an important year for William Hill, when we became the first in the industry to launch an online betting facility, our Sportsbook. The internet has changed the face of the industry, bringing in new, younger punters for a range of gambling and gaming activities, as well as providing an easy way to place a bet. Some things don’t change though – our reputation for honesty and integrity and our exceptional customer service are as important to today’s punters as they were in the days of placing a bet by putting a cheque in the post.

1934-1970
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1934 William Hill founded the business as a postal / telephone betting service.
1961 1 May: betting shops became legal.
1964 A 25% tax was levied on fixed odds betting.
1966 William Hill bought into betting shops. In the same year betting duty was imposed for the first time at a rate of 2.5%, later raised to 5% in 1968 and to 6% in 1970.
1970 William Hill retired.
1971-1997
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1971 16 October: William Hill died. The company became part of the Sears Holdings Group.
1988 Grand Metropolitan, owners of Mecca Bookmakers, acquired William Hill, merging the two companies under the William Hill name.
1989 Brent Walker purchased William Hill. John Brown became Managing Director. William Hill had 1,800 betting shops and the largest credit betting operation in the world. In August William Hill was appointed Official Bookmakers to Golf's European PGA Tour and was represented on the course at major events.
1994 The National Lottery was introduced.
1995 The National Lottery scratch card was introduced. Both represented threats to William Hill’s profitability.
1996 28 September was a great day for punters in racing history, when Frankie Dettori rode seven consecutive winners at Ascot against high odds. William Hill paid out £8 million.
1996-97 William Hill introduced new numbers betting products and amusement with prizes machines (AWPs) in shops to counteract the effects of the National Lottery. A reduction in betting duty also helped, as did the decrease in popularity of scratch cards.
1997 9 October: Nomura (through Grand Bookmaking Company Limited) purchased William Hill for £700m from Brent Walker.
1998-2007
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1998 May: William Hill went online with the launch of the online betting service, Sportsbook
1999 William Hill's proposed stock market float was abandoned when the Company was sold to Cinven and CVC Partners for £825 million.
2000 William Hill launched an off-shore telephone betting service. A call centre in Athlone, Republic of Ireland took calls from punters and passed them on for acceptance to the William Hill International bookmaking company in Antigua. Deductions of just 3% were levied.
2000 William Hill became the first major bookmaker to offer a totally deduction-free betting service to UK-based clients via the internet. William Hill's domestic site, www.williamhill.co.uk, charged a 5% rate of deduction; the international site, www.willhill.com, charged no deductions at all. Later, as a special offer, the domestic site also went deduction-free.
2000 Advertising of off-shore betting facilities on Teletext etc was banned.
2000 William Hill launched the online casino.
2001 Chancellor Gordon Brown announced in the Budget that betting duty was to be abolished before 1 January, 2002.
2001 10 October: betting duty was abolished and replaced by Gross Profits Tax on bookmakers. Offshore telephone betting and internet Sportsbook operations were repatriated to the UK.
2002 20 June: William Hill floated on the London Stock Exchange at an offer price of 225 pence per ordinary share. The offer was oversubscribed in excess of 10 times.
2003 March: William Hill purchased the Brough Park Greyhound Stadium.
2003 31 December: John Brown retired as Chairman.
2004 January: Charles Scott became Chairman.
2005 Gambling Act received Royal Assent.
2005 June: William Hill purchased Stanley Leisure PLC's retail bookmaking operations in Great Britain, Northern Ireland, Republic of Ireland, Jersey and the Isle of Man.
2008 onwards
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2008 February: Ralph Topping replaced David Harding as Chief Executive.
2008 October: William Hill announced the combining of the online business with purchased assets of online software company Playtech, to create William Hill Online, Europe’s leading online gaming and sports betting business.
2008 November: new Sportsbook launched with Orbis technology.
2009 April: £350m (net of expenses) raised through 1 for 1 rights issue to restructure balance sheet after debt refinancing.
2009 August: announced moving Sportsbook and online fixed odds games to Gibraltar.
2009 August: William Hill Online signed a three-year sponsorship agreement with Spanish La Liga club Malaga FC.
2009 October: Chief Executive Ralph Toping appointed Non-Executive Chairman of the Scottish Premier League.
2009 November: £300m raised through issuing a seven-year corporate bond at a coupon rate of 7.125% to diversify debt facilities.
2009 November: Group Finance Director Simon Lane announced stepping down.
2010 January: Charles Scott announced stepping down. Meanwhile, Kristof Fahy joined the Group as Brand & Marketing Director.
2010 January: William Hill sold the 50% stake of its joint venture in Spain to its partner Codere S.A. for one Euro.
2010 May: Neil Cooper joined the Group as Finance Director to replace Simon Lane.
2010 July: William Hill announced William Hill Online was to establish a new Telephone betting operation based in Gibraltar. The Group’s Telephone betting subsidiary, William Hill Credit Limited would close its operation in the UK and outsourced service provider Vertex would take over the Sheffield-based call centre.
2010 September: Gareth Davis replaced Charles Scott as Chairman.

Registered Office: Greenside House, 50 Station Road, Wood Green, London N22 7TP.
Registration Number 4212563 England

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