William Hill leave the betting ring after selling 82 racecourse pitches

Bookmaking giant William Hill have quit the betting ring, selling 82 racecourse pitches to the company which bets under the Sid Hooper banner.

Hills, who have been part of the fabric of betting rings in Britain for more than 80 years, will instead put their on-course focus on maximising returns from a 41-strong stable of racecourse shops.

The sale of the on-course pitches is thought to have been agreed at a price of around £2 million.

Commenting on the move, William Hill trading director Terry Pattinson said: "With a William Hill betting shop now at 41 racecourses, we have reviewed whether our rails operation continues to make commercial sense.

"Our focus now is to provide on-course customers with a full retail experience on the racecourse, so it makes sense to move away from our rails operation, hence, we have agreed a sale with Racecourse Pitches Ltd. We wish them the best of luck with their new expanded operations."

The Sid Hooper pitches are run by third generation layer and managing director John Hooper, who said: "We have been looking for expansion opportunities for some time and we are thrilled to have acquired the William Hill on-course portfolio of pitches."

William Hill, after whom the company is named, was widely regarded as one of the greatest bookmakers of his era.

Prior to opening a string of betting shops – which was made possible by the 1960 Betting and Gaming Act – Hill was a titan of the racecourse.

After setting up at Northolt Park in 1933, Hill's reputation grew and he dominated the betting ring especially during the period of 1941-55.

SP reporter Geoffrey Hamlyn wrote: "Four or even five-figure bets were nothing unusual, and he would stand horses in the ante-post races for £50,000 [equivalent to £2.4m today] or more, a lot of money in those days."

Hill died aged 68 on October 15, 1971, after suffering a heart attack in the Rutland hotel in Newmarket.