Soccer-England's World Cup exit is a blow for bookmakers
By Keith Weir
CURITIBA, Brazil, June 24 (Reuters) - England's early exit from the World Cup is a setback for Britain's bookmakers who had been hoping for a bumper soccer tournament, in part to cushion them from the impact of new taxes.
However, bookies say it's not the end of the world, with the excitement generated by a series of thrilling matches helping keep gamblers engaged despite England's poor showing.
William Hill, Britain's largest bookmaker, had forecast turnover from the month-long tournament would rise to 200 million pounds ($340 million), double the figure when the World Cup was last played in 2010.
"We're pleased with turnover levels so far and our pre-tournament targets still remain achievable," said spokeswoman Kate Miller. "We will lose the spike around England matches, but we were always realistic about their likely performance."
Overall bookmakers say it is too early to draw many conclusions from the tournament, with the thrills of the knockout stages still to come. What is certain is the industry is going through a challenging period.
Bookies in Britain are grappling with tighter regulation and an additional tax burden of almost 400 million pounds over the coming year - moves that have weighed heavily on their share prices. William Hill for instance has fallen from last November's peak of 495 pence to trade at 331.8p by 1520 GMT on Tuesday, down 1 percent on the day.
Bookmakers are not the only casualties of England's flop. British bars and pubs have also seen any expectations of a bumper summer dashed by the team's failure to make it through the tournament's first round.