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Hill was a self-starter who bet it all on himself, and this mindset has carried over for nearly a century as the betting and gaming company has become a leader in its industry around the world. In 2012, William Hill crossed the pond and is currently expanding its renowned sports book brand in the US. William Hill is operated by WHG (International) Limited, a company registered in Gibraltar. WHG (International) Limited is licensed and regulated in Great Britain by the Gambling Commission under account number 39225 for customers in Great Britain and further licensed by the Government of Gibraltar and regulated by the Gibraltar Gambling Commissioner. Hill was a self-starter who bet it all on himself, and this mindset has carried over for nearly a century as the betting and gaming company has become a leader in its industry around the world. In 2012, William Hill crossed the pond and is currently expanding its renowned sports book brand in the US.

William Hill is the world’s largest betting brand. In the UK
alone, they have 2,325 betting shops. They also operate an
online gambling site available in 24 languages and 10
currencies. The site offers sports betting, horse race betting,
financial betting, casino, poker, bingo, and skill and arcade
games all from a single website and player account bank. As a
company publicly-traded on the London Stock Exchange (WMH.L), it
can be verified. In 2011, they serviced more than 1.3 million
gamblers with profits exceeding £146.5 million. How does a
company get to be this size? All will be revealed in our history
of William Hill.

William Hill (founder) Born in 1903

The William Hill story begins with the July 16, 1903 birth of
their founder and namesake, William Hill. He was born in
Birmingham, England, the second of 13 children in a strict
Love letter board game arena. family. As a young lad, he attended Oldknow Road School before
leaving to work on his uncle’s farm at the age of 12. He later,
still as a child, worked for BSA works in Birmingham. Perhaps
rebellious over his strict upbringing, overcrowded home, and
working life, at age 16, Hill lied about his age and jumped on a
wagon to join the Black and Tans.

Legend has it that William Hill developed a passion for
horseracing and bookmaking at a young age. During his days with
BSA works, he was introduced to betting. While with the Black
and Tans, he was stationed in Mallow, County Cork, Ireland. From
here he spent his free time taking bets from Moss Foley’s pub.
Returning from duty, he remained in the bookmaking business on a
small scale.

Hill’s first attempt at legal bookmaker came in 1925 as an on
course bookmaker at the Birmingham tracks. Due to the inability
to lay off a couple large bets, he soon lost all his capital. In
1929, he moved to London to begin taking bets on greyhounds,
which allowed him to save up enough capital to invest and become
a part owner in Northolt Park Racetrack (that would become
famous for pony races).

William Hill (Company) Founded 1934

In 1934, William Hill opened his first off-track betting shop
in Park Lane, London. This was the start of the company known
today as William Hill. At the time, cash bookmaking was still
illegal. Hill used a loophole in the law that required “credit
only” betting by having punters provide checks (in person or via
post) weeks in advanced. These were cashed only after the event
had taken place, making it fully legal while he also retained
lawful recourse against any bounced checks.

Hill then continued to build his business on “trust”. At the
time, gambling debts weren’t enforceable by law, so bookies
didn’t even need to legally pay punters. While there were many
scams, his business grew to some 500,000 serviced by the 1960’s
because of his reputation as an honest businessman who pays

The Invention of Fixed Odds Football Betting

In 1944, William Hill became the first bookie to offer fixed
odds on football betting. The
history of Ladbrokes reported elsewhere often fails to give
him credit. No doubt Ladbrokes was the first UK- licensed
betting shop to offer fixed odds; however, William Hill was
doing so as a credit bookmaker much earlier. In fact, court
records indicate he preceded Ladbrokes, and he successfully sued
them in the early 1960’s for copying his ticket. Being the good
sport that he was, he asked for only £1 damages plus costs,
which the House of Lords granted.

William Hill as a Breeder

By the late 1930’s, William Hill had become the first ever
self-made millionaire bookie. While continuing his bookmaking
empire, he became passionate about breeding horses. He purchased
a stud at Whitsbury in Hampshire in 1943 (Nimbus) that in 1949
won the Two Thousand Guineas and Derby. In 1945, he purchased
Sezincote stud in Gloucestershire that won the 1953 Derby. He
also won a Classic with Cantelo in the 1959 St. Leger and the
Gimcrack Stake and Champagne Stake in 1958 with Be Careful.

William Hill the First Ever PLC Bookmaker


In 1954, William Hill moved his business to a shell company
called Holder’s Investment Trust to secure a position as the
first bookmaker ever publicly-listed on the London Stock
Exchange. From 1955 to 1961, he sold portions of his shares for
in excess of £5 million.

William Hill Personal Life

In order to explain William Hill’s late move into the betting
shop business, it’s important to cover his personal life. In
1923, he married Ivy Burley (nicknamed Daisy), who was a
hairdresser in Birmingham. They had their first and only child
the following year, Kathleen Hill (nicknamed Bubbles) who later
became Kathleen Lavinia after her marriage. She passed away at
the age of 37. The Saint Leonard’s Parish Church of Whitsbury,
located near the track where he purchased his first stud, to
this day bears the words:

“To the Glory of God and in Loving Memory of their daughter
Kathleen Lavinia, Born 10th Feb 1924 Died 27 Nov 1961. This
church was restored and refurnished in 1963 by William and Ivy

Hill was not a money hungry coldhearted bookie. During his
lifetime, he raced and bred horses with a passion, took regular
fishing trips, and sponsored youth cricket leagues. He was a
devout Roman Catholic and Socialist. When the UK legalized
betting shops, effective May 1, 1961, he was outspoken against
them. He went as far as calling them a cancer on society that
preyed on the working man. In his opinion, betting was a
recreational activity and competition for those who could afford
it. He was a good bookie and made millions many times over in
his lifetime due to hard work, trust, and running an honest

By 1966, however, betting shops had become so widespread in
the UK, that traditional bookies had no choice but to adapt.
Hill began investing in the betting shop empire known today. In
1970, he retired and passed away the following year.

Ownership After William Hill’s Death

When William Hill died on October 16, 1971, the business was
taken over by Sears Plc. Many William Hill history articles
associate it with Sears Holdings Group, which has 4,000 retail
locations under Sears and Kmart brand names. This is NOT the
same Sears. The Sears that took over William Hill is a UK
conglomerate in the retail shoes business. Their current brands
include Barratts and Priceless Shoes. While under Sears’
ownership, the company grew to 1800 legal betting shops by 1988.

In 1989, William Hill was purchased by Brent Walker. The same
year, they became the official bookmaker of Golf’s PGA European
Tour with betting shops located on course. During the 1990’s,
betting shops became more socially acceptable in the UK. They
were no longer required to blackout their windows, and instead
could display odds and advertisements for all to see. The law
prohibiting them from being open on Sundays was also repealed; the ability to advertise in newspapers, on television, and
on the radio was granted. Private Scratchcards were legalized and soon
were offered at William Hill shops.

With betting now mainstream, Walker cashed in, selling them
Nomura (Grand Bookmaking Companies) for £700m. They sold it 2
years later in 1999 to Cinven and CVC Partners for £825 million.
Finally, in 2002, William Hill was successfully floated on the
London Stock Exchange for approximately £1 billion.

William Hill Online

William Hill Online Gambling Real Money

In 2000, William Hill launched an off-shore phone-in betting
shop. It used a call center in Athlone, Ireland, which accepted
bets for William Hill International based in Antigua where the
tax was only 3%. That same year, they became the first UK
bookmaker to offer tax-free betting via the Internet. Oddly
enough, despite being known by all bettors alive as William,
they had to use the domain willhill.com. The domain
williamhill.com was already in use by a winery in California.
The winery stopped using it in late 2005, and William Hill the
bookmaker acquired it in 2009, redirecting the brand they had

As you can imagine, this was already the largest betting
brand in the world, and their growth as an online company was a
natural transition. These days there are many multiple language
betting sites, but when William Hill entered the market full
scale in 2000, there were few. They already were popular
internationally and were the biggest bookmaker in the UK. Their
growth came fast when launched in 2000 supporting English,
Spanish, French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Japanese,
Norwegian, and Finnish languages. In late 2000, they added an
online casino to their offering and then an online poker room in
2003. On April 17, 2002, William Hill signed a deal with the
British Horseracing Board for the commercial use of data. This
made full racing data available on their online website.

After successful floating on the London Stock Exchange in
2002, numerous acquisitions followed. In September of 2002,
William Hill purchased Sunderland Greyhound Stadium. In March
the following year, Brough Park Greyhound Stadium was added. In
2005, it acquired 624 betting shops from Stanley Leisure for
£504 million, although it had to sell 78 of them due to an
anti-competitive practice ruling. In 2008, it went into
partnership with the world’s largest casino software provider
and poker network operator, Playtech.

William Hill Online Gambling Sites

As mentioned above, William Hill remains the world’s largest
betting brand. The website is available in 24 languages, 10
currencies, and it supports sports and horse race betting, financial
betting, casino, poker, bingo, skill games, and arcade games. This is
no doubt one of the safest and most well-regulated websites for
online gamblers.

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