Skip to content

William Hill the First Ever PLC Bookmaker

William Hill is the biggest betting brand in the world. Within the UK alone, they have 2 325 betting stores. They also have an online gambling website that operates in 24 languages and 10 currencies. The site offers horses race wagering, financial betting bingo, casino, poker, and skill and arcade games all through a single site and player account bank. Since it is a publicly traded company by the London Stock Exchange (WMH.L) the company can be verified. They served over 1.3 million gamblers. Their profits over PS146.5 million. What is the process that allows a company to grow to be this large? Everything will be revealed in our story of William Hill.

William Hill (founder) Born in 1903

William Hill’s story William Hill story begins with the 16th of July in 1903 date of birth for their founding father, and namesake, William Hill. He was born in Birmingham, England, the third child of an extremely strict family. When he was a young man, he attended Oldknow Road School before leaving to work on an uncle’s farm around the age of twelve. Hill later, while still an infant, worked for BSA work in Birmingham. Perhaps discontented with his strict family, overcrowded house, and work when he was 16 Hill lied about his age and jumped onto a train for a ride with the black and tan.

The story goes the legend has it that William Hill developed a passion for bookmaking and horse racing at the age of just. In the course of his work with BSA works the horse was introduced to betting. While working for the Black and Tans they were stationed in Mallow, County Cork, Ireland. He spent all day taking bets at the Moss Foley’s Pub. After returning from work and he continued to work in the bookmaking industry in a smaller scale.

Hill’s first attempt at legal bookmaking was in 1925, as an on-course bookmaker on the Birmingham tracks. Due to his inability make a few large bets, Hill soon lost all his capital. In 1929, he moved to London to start taking bets on greyhounds. This allowed him to accumulate enough money to invest it and also become a shareholder of Northolt Park Racetrack (that would be famous for its the pony races).

William Hill (Company) Founded 1934

In 1934, William Hill opened his first off-track betting store situated in Park Lane, London. This was the first step towards the business that is now known as William Hill. In the early days, cash bookmaking was still prohibited. Hill made use of a loophole in the law which required “credit only” betting. This was done by requiring punters make cash (in person or through post) several weeks ahead. The checks were only redeemed after the event took place, making it fully legal, while also retaining legal recourse to bounced checks.

Hill continued to develop his business based on “trust”. In the early days gambling debts weren’t enforced under the law, which meant that bookies didn’t even need to pay punters legally. While there were many frauds, his business expanded to 500,000 customers by the 1960’s thanks to his reputation as a trustworthy businessman that paid the winners.

The Invention of Fixed Odds Football Betting

It was in 1944 that William Hill became the first bookmaker to offer fixed odds for football betting. The story of Ladbrokes mentioned elsewhere is not always able to recognize his achievements. No doubt Ladbrokes were the initial UK- licensed betting shop that offered fixed odds. However, William Hill was doing it as a credit bookmaker far earlier. Court records show that he predated Ladbrokes and even was able to sue them in the early 1960’s, for copying his ticket. Being the gentleman is, he requested for just PS1 damages plus costs, that the House of Lords granted.

Visit Bookies Hours for the latest William Hill closing times.

William Hill as a Breeder

In the latter part of 1930, William Hill had become the first self-made millionaire bookie. In the course of establishing his book-making empire, he became passionate about breeding horses. He purchased a stud at Whitsbury within Hampshire during 1943 (Nimbus) that in 1949 was awarded the Two Thousand Guineas and Derby. In 1945, he bought the Sezincote Stud in Gloucestershire that won the 1953 Derby. He also was a winner of the Classic by winning the Classic with Cantelo at the time of the St. Leger and the Gimcrack Stake and the Champagne Stake in 1958 with Be Careful.

William Hill the First Ever PLC Bookmaker

in 1954 William Hill moved his business to a shell company known as Holder’s Investment Trust to secure an account as the first bookmaker that was publicly listed at the London Stock Exchange. From 1955 until 1961, Hill sold a portion of his shares in excess of PS5 million.

William Hill Personal Life

To explain William Hill’s late move into the betting shop industry, it’s important to cover his personal life. In 1923, he married Ivy Burley (nicknamed Daisy) who was the hairdresser of Birmingham. They had their first and sole child in the year following, Kathleen Hill (nicknamed Bubbles) who was later named Kathleen Lavinia after her marriage. She passed away at 37 years old. She died at the age of 37. Saint Leonard’s Parish Church of Whitsbury situated near the track, where he bought his first stud, to this day is marked with the words:

“To the glory of God and in the Loving Memory of Their Daughter Kathleen Lavinia, Born 10th Feb 1924 . Died 27 Nov 1961. The church was rebuilt and renovated during 1963, by William and Ivy Hill”.

Hill was not a cash hungry bookie with a cold heart. Through his life, he ran and bred horses with passion, went on frequent fishing trips, and sponsored youth cricket leagues. He was a religious Roman Catholic and Socialist. When the UK permitted betting establishments starting on May 1st, 1961, he was vocal against them. He even went as far as calling them a disease on society which benefited the poor man. In his opinion, betting was a form of entertainment and was a form of competition only for those who could afford it. He was a good bookie and made millions many times over the course of his life because of hard work, faith, and operating an honest business.

By 1966, however, betting shops had become all over the UK that the traditional bookies had no choice but to adapt. Hill began investing in the betting shop empire that is known as today. In 1970, Hill retired and passed away the next year.

Ownership Following William Hill’s Demise

When William Hill died on October 16, 1971, the business was acquired by Sears Plc. A lot of William Hill history articles associate it with Sears Holdings Group that operates 4,000 retail stores under Sears and Kmart brand names. This is NOT the identical Sears. The Sears that acquired William Hill is a UK conglomerate that operates in the retail shoe business. The current brands are Barratts as well as Priceless Shoes. While under Sears under their ownership the company grew up to over 1800 legal betting stores in 1988.

It was in the year 1989 that William Hill was purchased by Brent Walker. In the same year, they were made the official bookmaker for the Golf’s PGA European Tour with betting shops located on the course. During the 1990’s, betting shops were more socially acceptable across the UK. They no longer had to shut their doors, and instead could display advertising and odds for the public to see. The law that barred their opening hours on Sundays was also removed as was the possibility to advertise to the public in television, newspapers and on the radio was granted. Private Scratchcards were legalized and soon were offered at William Hill shops.

With the rise of betting, Walker cashed in, selling them Nomura (Grand bookmaking companies) for PS700m. They then sold it two times in the following year in 1999 Cinven along with CVC Partners for PS825 million. In 2002, William Hill was successfully listed onto the London Stock Exchange for approximately PS1 billion.

William Hill Online

The year 2000 was the time that William Hill launched an off-shore telephone-in-bet shop. It used a call center located in Athlone, Ireland, which was able to accept bets from William Hill International based in Antigua in Antigua, where tax was just 3 percent. That same year they were one of the very first UK bookmaker to provide tax-free bets on the Internet. Oddly enough, despite being recognized by every bettors as William They had to use their own domain This domain was previously used by the winery located in California. The winery stopped using it in late 2005. William Hill the bookmaker acquired the domain in 2009, rebranding the brand they had built.

As you’d imagine, this was already the largest betting company in the world. their growth as an online business was a natural change. Nowadays, there are many multi-language betting websites however in the year William Hill entered the market full scale in 2000, there were only a few. They were already well-known globally and was the biggest bookmaker operating in the UK. The company’s growth was rapid after they launched in 2000 supporting English, Spanish, French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Japanese, Norwegian, as well as Finnish languages. In the second half of 2000, William Hill added an online gaming platform to their offerings and then an online poker room in 2003. On April 17, 2002 William Hill signed a deal with the British Horseracing Board for the commercial use of the data. The racing information was made accessible on their website.

After a successful flotation on the London Stock Exchange in 2002 many acquisitions were made. In September 2002 William Hill purchased Sunderland Greyhound Stadium. The following year, in March, Brough Park Greyhound Stadium was added. In 2005, the company acquired 624 betting shops at Stanley Leisure for PS504 million and was forced to sell 78 of them because of an anti-competitive practices decision. It was in the year 2008 that it entered into alliance with the biggest gaming software provider and system operator Playtech.

As previously mentioned, William Hill remains the most popular betting brand in the world. It is accessible in 24 languages, with 10 currency options, as well as it supports sports and horse race wagering, finance betting, casino, poker, bingo, skill games, and arcade games. It’s certainly one of the most secure and most well-regulated websites for gamblers on the internet.