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THE EPOS SYSTEM AT WILLIAM HILL POTENTIAL BENEFITS AND LOSSES

INTRODUCTION

William Hill is a major bookmaker worldwide, with over seventy years experience in offering betting services. It is currently one of the leading gaming companies in the UK, where it operates over 1600 betting shops, serves over 800,000 betting slips each day via phone (standard and mobile), and recently began Britain’s first interactive digital television channel devoted entirely to gambling (Lee 2004). It is the country’s most successful Internet gambling company in a country where over four million people bet in online gaming rooms every month (Thomas 2004). William Hill was the first major gaming organisation to offer online betting, opening its website in 1996 (Lee 2004).

The William Hill culture pairs low-cost, low-risk emphasis in business decision making with a willingness to be innovative, particularly in regards to use of technology (Hargrave 2004)). This makes it all the more surprising that the organisation has waited so long to implement electronic point of sale (EPOS) machines in its betting shops. While these are expected to make the company more profitable, efficient, and competitive, the implications of these machine span across the organisation. Of specific interest is the effect of the system on the people involved, traditionally an important part of William Hill’s success.

This study seeks to consider the possible benefits and losses to William Hill from the implementation of the EPOS system. Three specific areas of consideration are the effect of the machines on corporate and local shop culture, whether the EPOS system will increase efficiency, and whether the system will contribute to increased competitiveness.

OBJECTIVES

The objectives of this study are to critically examine the introduction of an electronic point of sale system as implemented at William Hill. Specifically, this study aims to examine the strategic considerations of the EPOS and how its effectiveness can be optimised. The study begins with a review of literature and research available about William Hill, the firm’s operations, and EPOS systems in general. This Literature Review serves as a foundation for understanding analysis of the rest of this work.

Following the Literature Review, of first consideration will be the effect of EPOS on the corporate and local culture of William Hill. Will EPOS enhance or detract from positive aspects of current culture? Will the increase in customer information and the ease of its analysis draw new customer groups into traditional betting shops? If so, what will be the effect of this on the shops and their regulars? How will staff react to the changes caused by the EPOS system? Will EPOS change how customers and staff interact? How does the introduction of EPOS compare to the effect of technological advances on workers in general?

The second objective is consideration of the efficiency of the EPOS system. It will be compared to the traditional manual betting system it replaced, with analysis of improvements in or negative effects on time and cost. Has William Hill become more efficient, and more importantly more effective, with the introduction of EPOS? It is a better organisation as the result of automation?

Finally, the study seeks to project the effects of EPOS on William Hill’s competitiveness. Will the system encourage customers to switch to William Hill? Can the organisation’s market share be expected to increase? What are the overall results on a holistic, corporate level of automation, and how can the firm best implement such technology without undermining its established strengths? What is the most strategic way the system can be implemented, and how can it most greatly benefit the organisation as a whole?

This study seeks to address these questions through the study of information and data provided by William Hill and in literature available about the firm, similar gambling companies, and electronic point of sale systems in general.

HYPOTHESIS

It is anticipated that the EPOS system will be found to increase efficiency and competitiveness for William Hill, albeit at some change to and possible loss of culture. This is anticipated to be an overall positive innovation, however, increasing profit across several gaming platforms, allowing for improved marketing activities, and increasing market share for the company. The system is anticipated to provide a faster, more accurate, and more secure way of