Ulrik Bengtsson Named as New William Hill CEO

William Hill has replaced CEO Philip Bowcock with Ulrik Bengtsson. Prior to this, Bengtsson was the gambling firm’s chief digital officer. Bengtsson will take up his new position on the 30th of September. The move comes as part of a drive for the company to improve their digital presence.

Close up of someone placing a bet on a William Hill betting slip.

William Hill betting shops have long been a staple of UK highstreets © William Hill

Bengtsson seems to be a sensible choice for a company this is striving to become more ‘digitally-led’. He joined William Hill last April after running Swedish online gaming brand Betsson. Whilst in his role at Betsson, he managed the procurement and incorporation of eight companies. He also has other experience in the digital sector, holding CEO positions at Viasat Sweden and Pay TV Emerging Markets at Modern Times Group. It bodes well for the future of William Hill, a company that has struggled in some areas over recent years. Bengtsson will not go into his new role alone though. Philip Bowcock will be on hand until the end of this year, in order to oversee the switch.

Roger Devlin, chairman at William Hill had positive remarks on Bengtsson’s appointment.

”Having overseen the Group’s digital operations for 18 months, he knows the business well and is ideally suited to lead our next phase of growth. Ulrik has deep understanding in digital and has the international and sector experience we need to deliver on our strategy. His appointment will provide continuity, stability and operational digital leadership as we deliver on the strategy we have set.”Roger Devlin, Chairman, William Hill

Hard Times on the High Street

Ulrik Bengtsson’s promotion to CEO of William Hill highlights a change in the gambling industry that many are already conscious of. Over recent years, online markets have become increasingly important, as profit margins grow ever slimmer on the high street.

William Hill is no stranger to this phenomenon. During the first half of 2019, its losses amassed to £64 million. The current economic climate has been difficult for many bookmakers, but William Hill has taken a particularly bad hit. A number of different factors are to blame for the culmination of this decline.

Ulrik Bengtsson, the new CEO of William Hill.

As CEO of William Hill, Ulrik Bengtsson aims to build on the company’s digital assets © William Hill

In the UK, restraints placed on fixed-odds betting terminals had a negative impact on William Hill’s business. In April a new maximum bet limit was enforced, reducing the previous bet limit of £100 to just £2. The change was brought in by the UK government to combat high levels of gambling addiction. It was good news for gamblers, but bad news for many bookmakers. Following the reduction, William Hill made a loss of £64 million in the first half of the year, and a loss of almost £1 billion overall due to the fixed-odds betting terminals restrictions. As a result, the company has voiced plans to close 700 shops due to a 12% fall in their high-street income.

Why Go Digital?

William Hill has also suffered from a fall in its online revenues. In terms of strategy, the online betting market is where the company can aim to turn its fortunes around, if it plays its cards right. We are currently seeing growing markets in the US, following the Supreme Court’s repeal of the PASPA act in 2018. As more states legislate for legalized sports betting, William Hill’s potential market could expand. William Hill has been present in the US since 2012, when it bought three sportsbooks chains in Nevada, the only state exempt from the PASPA act. Since then, the company also offers betting services at locations in New Jersey, Iowa, New Mexico, West Virginia, the Bahamas and Mississippi.

While physical sportsbooks in the US are certainly a positive asset for William Hill, they will surely be seeking to boost their online presence. Of the states that allow sports betting, not all allow online gambling. However, as the months go by, more states are legalizing sports betting. William Hill’s US market is expanding, as in time its online market will too.

One instance of the company’s forward thinking is the implementation of betting apps. On the 21st of August, William Hill launched their own mobile sports betting app in Iowa. They are the only betting company in Iowa to have launched an app, making them a top choice for Iowa bettors. The app makes placing bets fast and convenient, without the need to visit a real-life sportsbook.

Utilizing modern digital technologies such as betting apps, while providing attractive welcome packages and a variety of betting options will be of key concern to Ulrik Bengtsson. As someone with a background in digital technologies, he ought to be up to the challenge.

Ulrik himself has expressed his excitement for taking on the new position at William Hill:

“I am delighted to be taking on the CEO role at such an exciting time for William Hill and look forward to working with the team to deliver our strategy. We have a great opportunity to build William Hill as a digital and international business by driving Online growth in the UK and internationally, growing a scale US business, remodelling Retail and delivering our Nobody Harmed ambition.”

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