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William Hill set to revamp retail business as 2018 profit falls

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William Hill set to revamp retail business as 2018 profit falls
FILE PHOTO: A William Hill bookmaker store is seen in London, Britain July 21, 2016. REUTERS/Peter Nicholls/File Photo   -   Copyright  Peter Nicholls(Reuters)
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(Reuters) – British bookmaker William Hill <WMH.L> said on Monday it would remodel its retail business in 2019, after it warned full-year 2018 adjusted operating profit was expected to be about 15 percent lower than a year earlier.

The company had cut its profit forecast in November due to tightening regulations at home, particularly on lucrative fixed-odds betting terminals (FOBTs), and warned of more losses in the United States.

On Monday it said its U.S. business had broadly broken even in the year.

European gambling companies have been looking to expand across the Atlantic in light of regulatory curbs in Britain and as U.S. states ease curbs on betting.

William Hill said 2018 adjusted operating profit from continuing operations would be 234 million pounds ($301.20 million), slightly higher than company-supplied analyst estimates of 232.2 million pounds.

Profit was lower in its retail business due to tough high-street conditions and the offering would be remodelled in 2019 as Chief Executive Officer Philip Bowcock looks to make the firm a “digitally-led international business”, the company said.

The company had said in November that it would look at new products to offer alternatives to FOBTs.

“With rapid expansion underway in the U.S. … and the acquisition of Mr Green nearing completion, we look forward to making further progress this year,” Bowcock said in a statement.

William Hill has earmarked about 120-130 million pounds for 2019 to fund its U.S. expansion.

Rival GVC Holdings <GVC.L> expects the United States to be profitable, despite a Department of Justice call for wider restrictions on all gambling on the internet.

($1 = 0.7769 pounds)

(Reporting by Noor Zainab Hussain and Shashwat Awasthi in Bengaluru; Editing by Gopakumar Warrier)

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