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Last Updated: Monday, 6 September, 2004, 16:48 GMT 17:48 UK
William Hill boosted by Euro 2004
David Beckham misses penalty at Euro 2004, AP
Euro 2004 led to increased business for William Hill
Half year profits at bookmakers William Hill have risen nearly 40% helped by increased trading hours and the Euro 2004 football championships.

The firm said profits were up to 111.8m ($210.2) compared with a 85.1m a year ago, for the six months to June.

Operating profits at its online division which includes internet gaming and sports betting rose 50% to 24.2m.

But William Hill warned results going against them in July and August would lead to a slowdown in earnings growth.

Income from fixed odd betting terminals, which allow punters to play computer roulette, was up 45%.

The group said the number of fixed odds betting terminals in its stores had almost doubled to 3,658, adding that it hoped to have a total of 5,200 by the end of the year.

24-hour TV channel

William Hill owns nearly 1,600 branches in the UK and also offers betting via telephone and the internet.

The bookmaker is to launch a 24-hour television channel next month that will allow bets on games such as virtual horse racing and casino games, as well as traditional wagers.

William Hill's gross win, the amount left from bets after customers are paid, rose 18%, aided by a profitable Cheltenham horse racing festival and the victory of rank outsider Greece in Euro 2004.

We've just had a run of bad results
William Hill chief David Harding

But the firm did add that the take slipped to 8% in the eight weeks to 24 August as UK horseracing results went against bookmakers due to more favourites winning at the big Goodwood and York meetings.

"Some would say that this is all part of the retail slowdown ... but I don't believe that to be the case," said William Hill chief executive David Harding.

"We've just had a run of bad results."

Shares fall

Shares in William Hill fell 4% on the FTSE 100 as investors reacted to the slightly smaller-than-expected rise in interim profits.

At the close of trading its shares had fallen 12.5 pence, or 2.3%, to 530 pence.

Last week, Irish bookmaker Paddy Power reported its profits had rebounded strongly in the first six months of 2004.

It said interim pre-tax profits were 18.7m euros (12.6m; $22.6m), up from 7.2m euros last year.

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