Latest Cases - March 2011

4th March 2011

Good afternoon, friends,

In this issue of Punters' Verdict....

  • 1.6 million reasons to be happy....
  • The best prices on the block....
  • Does price or offer prevail?

1.6 million reasons to be happy....

William Hill recently reported pre-tax profits of £193.3 million
pounds for 2010 - a 60% rise on the previous year. Online sportsbook
revenue rose 24% - with in-play betting revenue increasing by a
whopping 104%.

One of William Hill's good and faithful servants has particular
reason to click his heels over the healthy figures. Chief Executive
Ralph Topping has been rewarded to the tune of £1.6 million
(comprised of salary, benefits and an £891,000 bonus) for the year -
a 56% rise on last year's remuneration package. 

William Hill employs some 16,000 people. The vast majority of them
will not see a single brass cent of the bumper take - let alone a 6-
figure bonus. That said they can draw some motivation from Mr
Topping's comments on the company's financial performance (which
might also provide some clue as how he intends to spend his
haul):'We missed the boat, now we are back in the boat and it's a

The success and subsequent growth of the William Hill in-play
product is one reason for the improved bottom-line performance over
the last 12 months.

Another is the company's new-found determination to compete hard on
and nowhere is this 'stand and deliver' strategy more
evident than in the ante-post markets for the races at the upcoming
Cheltenham Festival...

The best prices on the block....

There are 27 races at this year's showpiece jumps fixture. And it's
instructive to take a look at the prices on offer about the horses
most of the active market wants to back...

It's reasonable to assume that the most popular horses for betting
purposes occupy the top spots in the individual markets - let's say
the top 6 spots...

That's 162 horses in total (27 x 6) and how the individual
bookmakers choose to trade these fancied animals tells you something
about their attitude to providing the market with value.

When the individual firms are exposed to this analysis (I carried
out the research at midnight last night) one thing becomes very
clear very quickly....

William Hill is head and shoulders above the competition when it
comes to ante-post prices at the Festival... they are best-price (or
joint best-price) on 119 of the 162 horses currently heading their
respective race markets... that's 75%.

But William Hill hasn't just beaten the field. Oh no. If this was a
horse race the form scribes would be saying they've decimated it....
run it off its feet and beaten it 30 lengths and going away...

You can see what I mean when you consider that the next best
performance came from Boylesports who were best-price (or joint-
best) on 78 runners... or 48%. Stan James and Totesport were biggest
price on 35%. Victor Chandler weighed in biggest on 33%.

Bet365's prices were amongst the worst - they were top price on just
18% of the market leaders. There's some mitigation here. Bet365
provide a range of offers - like their 4/1 offer on C4 races. And it
must also be remembered that the Stoke outfit pioneered Best Odds
Guaranteed on all races and regularly offered enhanced place terms
when it was unfashionable to incentivise punters with such deals.

Quite what Blue Square's Festival strategy amounts to is beyond me.
They were top price on just 17% of the Festival market leaders - so
they're not focusing on attracting the market by offering decent
prices. And if you're looking for offers or concessions you can
forget that too. Blue Square don't want to incentivise you at all.

Take the Gold Cup, for example. Where half-a-dozen firms are already
non-runner no-bet and where the same again are already offering Best
Odds Guaranteed about the race, Blue Square offer neither
. And
they're biggest about precisely none of the top 6 in the market.
Nice work, lads.

It's the same story in the Champion Hurdle market, the Ryanair
Chase... and so on. It's almost as though Blue Square don't want to
stand any Festival bets
. In providing the worst value prices... and
a complete dearth of incentives... they're doing almost everything
they can to discourage you from betting with them. Give them what
they appear to want.

Does price or offer prevail?

So where William Hill are seeking to grab market share by focusing
on offering the best prices, bet365 use offers to get and retain

Which is the most effective method for driving customer acquisition
and retention? Who is winning out?

The evidence suggests that bet365's offer-driven sportsbook product
just about has the edge at the moment.... At least if Oddschecker's
latest performance report is anything to go by....

Bet365 got an 18.7% of the market clicks on the odds comparison site
during the month of January... compared to William Hill's 7.8%.

The disparity in those figures will be down to more than differences
in price and offer - but they do illustrate that there's plenty of
lag for Hills to play for with its sustained price-based assault on
the market.

Maybe Hills could look at putting a cheery on the icing by coming up
with some offer-based incentives to run alongside the value on
Maybe bet365 will have to think about getting a bit more realistic
on prices if it wants to fend off Hills and retain market share over
the long-term?

It's getting competitive out there. The bookmakers are going at it
hammer and tongue to win new business and protect what business
they've got. And it's a great situation for punters... a time to
vote with your feet and bet with the operators prepared to offer
most bang for your buck.

Right now - on price at least - William Hill is the generous man in
the ante-post Festival markets. It is worth checking their prices
out before you think about taking an early price elsewhere.

I'll be back with the Verdict next week.

The Judge

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