William Hill Closes Israel Marketing Center

William Hill Closes Israel Marketing Center

Here’s a bit of an oddity: William Hill has confirmed that it will be closing its operational and marketing center in Tel Aviv, Israel, eventually throwing 200 of the 250 people employed there out of work by March of 2018. The oddity: William Hill doesn’t offer any wagering services in Israel, and never has.

News about the impending closure of the William Hill office operation broke late last week at the Israeli news outlet Haaretz, likely when that outlet got wind of the forthcoming closure from some of the affected employees. Old Bill Hill had just broken the news to its Israeli staff, beginning preliminary exit interviews that are continuing this week, and the company subsequently confirmed to Haaretz that the planned layoffs are, indeed, real.

The 50 or so of the 250 current Israeli employees who will stay on are expected to be transferred to several of the Hills’ eight other corporate locations scattered around the globe. Most of the employees who do move will likely go to a European William Hill operation. The company has other corporate presences in the United Kingdom, Gibraltar, Bulgaria, Italy, Spain, the United States, Australia, and the Philippines.

William Hill opened its Israeli office back in 2008, when it was partnering with software-platform provider Playtech and that company’s founder, Teddy Sagi. Israel had already established itself as one of the globe’s go-to nations for skilled workforce expertise in the areas of online marketing and SEO (search engine optimization), in particular as those efforts related to online gambling.

It was an odd affinity, given the country’s proactive ban on its citizens participating in actual gambling on online sites; a couple of operators have tried servicing Israel’s consumer market over the past several years, and they’ve been hammered down by the country’s authorities.

As an example, global online-poker market leader once offered its services to Israel’s residents, but exited the country last year. That market departure occurred within Stars’ self-winnowing from several so-called “grey market” countries, but it also prevented Stars from being an inviting target once the latest step-up in Israeli enforcement actions was scheduled to occur.  (And by the way, that happened last month).

But the marketing of those “illegal” gambling sites, for services directed to other countries? No problem there. William Hill is far from the only major Euro gambling operator either to open an in-house firm in Israel or to contract with third-party marketing services located there. The Haaretz piece notes, “About half of the Israeli William Hill operation is marketing in other countries, rather than development.

Whether or not William Hill’s departure from Israeli is part of the company’s own ongoing financial doldrums is subject to discussion. It could also be one of those things where the company decided that having a major corporate presence in a country where gambling is officially taboo is something of a bad look… or maybe not.

More pertinent might be this nugget of financial info extracted by Haaretz from William Hill’s fiscal reports. While the company has slung plenty of red ink overall in recent years, the growth it has managed has been largely in its online division.

Not so in 2016. According to those financials, “Last year [2016] revenue fell by 3% and operating profit by 20%. Revenue from new customers was lower than expected, which the company blames on ‘ineffective marketing’ that has led to replacing the management of its online services division in Britain.”

A lot of that “ineffective marketing” had to emanate from the Israel office as well. And when your entire office essentially is marketing, well, you’ve got to figure you’re high up on the chopping-block list, piecemeal or not.

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