British bookmaker William Hill PLC said it is confident about its prospects for the year ahead as it reassured analysts on Friday that gaming regulators would approve the company's $53 million purchase of three sports book operators in Nevada.
"The Nevada licensing application to complete (our) U.S. acquisitions is progressing well and remains within the timetable. ..." said Ralph Topping, CEO of William Hill. "Playtech is required to supply a submission to the regulator as a key supplier and partner, which we anticipate imminently."
Topping reminded industry watchers that it had been only 10 months since the company submitted its license applications, and the company expects the licensing process to take 12 to 18 months.
William Hill's update on its Nevada acquisitions was issued four days after reports that their efforts to gain gaming licenses had been delayed. Regulators were expected to vote in May.
The Guardian newspaper in London reported the delay was because of Nevada Gaming Control Board taking a closer look at the background of Robin Chhabra, William Hill's head of strategy and corporate development, and at a joint venture with Playtech in Israel.
The agreement with Playtech generates almost 40 percent of William Hill's operating profits. Topping said William Hill has been in discussions with Playtech to take "full control" of William Hill Online, in which Playtech holds a 29 percent stake.
"We are ruling nothing in and we are ruling nothing out," Topping said Friday during a 35-minute conference call with gaming industry analysts. "We are in discussions with Playtech and the talks are going extremely well."
William Hill in April 2011 agreed to buy American Wagering Inc., the parent of Leroy's Horse & Sports Place, for $18 million. The company also purchased Club Cal Neva Satellite Race and Sports book division in Northern Nevada for $21 million and Brandywine Bookmaking LLC, which operates Lucky's sports books, for $14.25 million.
In the first quarter of 2012, William Hill's operating profit rose 19 percent, which the company attributed to higher margins in its retail business and the popularity of online wagering.
The company's net revenues were up 12 percent, with the group's retail operations up 5 percent, and its online business up 33 percent, according to the bookmaker's first-quarter interim management statement.
William Hill noted that its free Sportsbook mobile app was downloaded 190,000 times from the Apple App Store during the first quarter, bringing the company some 57,000 new customers and helping the online business post $61.8 million in operating profits, up 29 percent from the year before.
Topping said he was "pleased" with William Hill's first-quarter results.
"Our investments in marketing and innovations continue to deliver benefits, with our Sportsbook exceeding ($80.6 million) in turnover in a single week for the first time during the quarter and mobile turnover reaching almost ($17.7 million) in a single week," he said.
He said William Hill has benefited from its app being available for download through Apple, giving the company "access to thousands of new customers."
Topping said on April 14, its Sportsbook app was the fourth most popular download from the Apple App Store, putting it behind the photo-sharing app Instagram, which was recently purchased for $1 billion by Facebook.