Following a notice of inquiry served by the Philippine National Bureau of Investigations regarding allegations of conducting illicit gambling activities in the Philippines, leading UK bookmaker William Hill temporarily closed its Manila support centre last Monday to make way for any impending probe.
The British corporate bookmaker maintains that the William Hill Online Manila office merely provides customer support and outsourced back office business processing services, mainly for the company’s online business. The statement released Monday further stated that the William Hill UK office believes that there are no unlawful activities taking place in its Manila office, as the entity complies with local laws as well as observes global policies in carrying out operations.
Actually as operator of global betting facilities, William Hill maintains offices outside of the company’s UK and Gibraltar licencing and regulatory jurisdictions, as it also has offices in Tel Aviv, Israel and in Sofia, Bulgaria in addition to its Manila, Philippines centre; all of which handle the back office, marketing, and customer support functions of the bookmaker’s online betting services.
William Hill asserts that it is a registered member of the Philippine Economic Zone Authority, which is a government agency, connected to the Department of Trade and Industry. The agency’s tasks include promoting business investments, providing assistance, facilitating and granting incentives to export-oriented manufacturers and services providers, located inside selected areas designated and proclaimed as Special Economic Zones by the Philippine President.
The bookmaker’s William Hill Online office is located in one of the buildings in Fort Bonifacio Global City or “The Fort” in Taguig, Metro Manila, one of the PEZA zones in which PEZA-accredited buildings play host to business process outsourcing (BPO) firms.
Nonetheless, the UK William Hill office assured customers that it has put in place continuity measures to see to the availability of the company’s key operational services, which the Manila Centre office typically provides. After all, this is not the first time that the company encountered a disruption in its William Hill Online Manila operations, albeit of a different nature.
In October 2011, the William Hill Tel Aviv office initiated a staff walkout instigated by a group of senior managers who made the employees believe that the William Hill Online in Israel was about to close shop and be replaced by a similar office in the UK or Gibraltar. The employees of the Bulgaria and Manila William Online offices imitated the mass walkout. Still, William Hill Executives, which included former WH CEO Ralph Topping, quickly resolved the matter and with the assistance of Playtech head honcho Mor Weizer.
It turned out that the rumours, which included a breakdown of the William Hill-Playtech partnership, were all part of a plot cooked up by a group of senior managers of the William Hill Online offices, in line with the group’s plan of setting up a rival business. At that time, financial reports showed that the William Hill Online offices had contributed as much as £276.8 million to William Hill UK’s overall operating profits. Although the resolution resulted to the sacking of seven senior managers, reports have it that the peace accord arrived at, included an undisclosed separation settlement in exchange for a non-compete clause.