WILLIAM HILL PLANS MAJOR EXPANSION IN ONLINE SPORTSBETTING New online sports betting platform planned for November as CEO focuses on the Internet One of Britain's largest gambling groups, William Hill plc has ambitious plans to raise its Internet sportsbetting gross win by 50 percent with the introduction of a new software platform in November 2008. 20 percent of Hill's gross win already comes from Internet activity, but CEO Ralph Topping told Reuters reporters this week that he aims to increase this to 25-30 percent as soon as the new platform, designed by UK software provider Orbis, is launched on November 27. "That kind of growth is there for us to aim for but we'll set formal targets early next year," Topping said. William Hill's online sportsbook business has struggled over the last year from intensifying competition and serious technology problems. The company attempted to implement a major upgrade of its internet betting operations in-house (see previous InfoPowa report) but was forced to scrap the project last year, writing down GBP 22 million. Topping, who was previously the company's Internet director but took up the position of chief executive in February, was at pains to emphasise his commitment to expanding the online business, which he feels was neglected in the past. The firm has successfully halted the decline in its sportsbook operations and is now achieving double digit percentage growth, thanks partly to the introduction of 30 new games, backed by a fresh advertising campaign, Topping said. "There is a new sense of direction. For too long, we regarded ourselves as bookmakers with a bolt-on activity called gaming. There is a substantial opportunity for growth on the Internet," he said. Topping indicated that part of that opportunity could be realised through acquisitions. The online gaming industry is regarded as fragmented by analysts and its immaturity makes it prime for consolidation. "There will be consolidation within the industry. It is inevitable as companies like 888 are only 10 or 12 years old. If William Hill is involved, it will be within the criteria that we won't pay foolish prices and there has to be a good return for investors," Topping said.

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