More people are turning to Internet gambling, boosting profits at William Hill, Britain’s largest bookmaker.
The group said operating profits rose 20 per cent in 2012, boosted by strong revenue growth from its expanding online business.
The company is forecasting operating profits of £330m in the 53-weeks to January 1 following a 12 per cent jump in revenues.
William Hill has more than 2,300 betting shops on Britain’s high streets, but the company has been expanding its overseas and online activities to reduce reliance on its traditional market.
The group, which employs more than 3,000 people in Yorkshire, including over 1,300 people in Leeds, has rolled out a number of new mobile gaming and virtual sports sites and apps.
Weather-related horse racing fixture cancellations meant the amounts wagered in shops fell by one per cent in the year but the gross win margin, which reflects the percentage of losing bets, was higher than normal at 18.2 per cent.
In the final quarter, the margin on football matches was 26.9 per cent against 24.1 per cent a year earlier.
Chief executive Ralph Topping said: “The fourth quarter delivered a strong end to an already good year in 2012.
“Performance was robust in retail and profits continued to grow strongly in online, with sporting results going in our favour in both channels.”
Richard Hunter, head of equities at Hargreaves Lansdown stockbrokers, said: “The market continues to reward those companies which have embraced online business and William Hill is no exception.
“On a more cautious note, further Government interference can never be discounted, competition is intense and there is always the possibility of an unfavourable run of sporting results.”
A week of favourable results at the end of November saw Manchester City draw with Real Madrid in the Champions League, followed by the same outcome for all the English teams in the Europa League the next day and a number draws in that weekend’s line-up of Premier League fixtures. Over the year, online revenues grew by 27 per cent.