Economic climate spurs differing decisions

Two prominent UK-Irish bookies took different routes in the prevailing economic climes this week, with Paddy Power expanding, and William Hill closing retail betting operations.

Paddy Power expanded into the Scottish retail market with the opening of its first licensed betting office (LBO) in Glasgow, the first of three planned openings in the city. The Irish bookmaker has announced that intends to open over 80 shops across Scotland and the north west of England by 2011 to grow its total UK estate to at least 150 shops, creating more than 400 new jobs in the process.

Paddy Power CEO, Patrick Kennedy, said: "Scottish punters have already experience significant exposure to the unique brand offering of Paddy Power through our phone and online betting services. This move to ground and complement our brand with a bricks and mortar presence is very exciting."

In contrast, William Hill plans to close 14 shops in the Irish Republic next month, with the loss of 53 jobs, reports the Irish Times.

The UK bookmaker blamed the economic downturn, the Irish government's proposal to double betting turnover tax to 2 percent from next May, and the "restriction on introducing innovative and profitable products into Irish shops", according to the paper. The comment on innovation likely refers to Irish law not permitting bookmakers to the advantage of fixed-odds betting terminals in shops.

On a more cheerful Will Hill note, the group has announced the launch of its new online casino design, bonuses and promotions.

Company spokesmen emphasised that the new online casino is equipped to suit the needs of all casino players, even novices. Beginners will find everything they need in order to learn how to play casino games such as online blackjack or roulette and practice them in casino fun mode to enhance their skills.

Advanced graphics and user-friendly infrastructure are key elements in the makeover, and the result can be viewed at http://www.williamhillcasino.com

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