The executive further noted that the operator is facing a milder growth in its UK-based customer base due to the acquisition of lower value gambling customers.

Shares in the bookmaker William Hill have nose-dived by 10 per cent after what is being described online as "the worst Cheltenham results in recent history". "While the rest of the group is performing in line with our expectations, we continue to focus on improving online's performance so that we can, once again, outperform the market".

On the first day of the four-day festival, the bookmaker lost £2m after favourites Annie Power, Douvan and Vroum Vroum Mag all ran out comfortable winners. However, the bookmaker added the negotiation "may, or may not, lead to a transaction".

Shares in William Hill were down 11.7 percent at 326.8 pence at 0806 GMT.

The board remains committed to the share buy-back program which the company has previously announced, William Hill said.

This morning, William Hill governance issued a surprise update declaring that it expected 2016 operating profit to fall between £260 - 280 million, down on full-year 2015's £291 million.

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Nonetheless, the broader William Hill group continues to trade well and is overall in line with management expectations, the company said.

Looking forward William Hill said it is focusing on a range of new strategic opportunities which have been identified, some of these include refocusing on growing United Kingdom customer yields, improving performance in non-core markets and reducing operating costs.

"These are punters who don't take it seriously enough to really know what they are playing at, and can therefore be relied upon to bet money at poor odds, in return for a bit of a thrill".

Coming into 2016, City analysts had forecasted William Hill to deliver profits of circa £300-318 million. "Basically this means that "problem gamblers" are being locked out of their accounts".

The Online division has also been affected by unfavourable sporting results.

"We have seen an acceleration in the number of time-outs and automatic self-exclusions over recent weeks and this is impacting the level of activities across the online business, particularly in gaming", the company said.