Bookmaker William Hill said it saw an upturn in bets placed over-the-counter in its shops and money taken by its gambling machines as it reaped the benefit of being a relatively cheap pastime for cash-strapped customers.

The company, which has around 2,370 betting shops and takes more than a million bets a day, said it saw 11 percent growth in over-the-counter bets in the fourth quarter of 2011 compared with the year before and a 7 percent rise in gross win - total bets minus payouts - from its gambling machines.

Going into 2011, we were - like many businesses with a strong presence in the UK - predicted to face a challenging consumer backdrop but our overall performance shows we've seen the benefit of being a predominantly low ticket leisure activity, Chief Executive Ralph Topping said on Thursday.

For the year as a whole, William Hill said it would meet market expectations with net revenue expected to be up 6 percent and operating profit expected to be around 274 million pounds, compared to 276.8 million the year before.

This is a very positive performance, particularly in a year without a significant international football tournament and with a 9 million pounds increase in VAT payments as a result of the rate change, he added.

William Hill said its over-the-counter gross win margin was 17 percent in the fourth quarter, down 2 percentage points on the same period the year before.

That reflected a high number of favourites winning in Premier League football and customers taking advantage through wins on accumulator bets.

Shares in William Hill, which have outperformed the FTSE All Share Travel & Leisure Index <.FTASX 5750> by 43 percent over the past year, closed on Wednesday at 209.7 pence, valuing the business at 1.47 billion pounds.

(Reporting by Matt Scuffham; Editing by Lorraine Turner)