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Profits at Ladbrokes-owner GVC to be lifted by online gambling

Edmund Heaphy
Finance and news reporter
A Ladbrokes betting shop in London. While over-the-counter gambling has proven resilient, growth has come from its online counterpart. Photo: AP Photo/Leonora Beck

Ladbrokes owner GVC (GVC.L) raised its profit forecasts for its current financial year on Wednesday, in part thanks to continued growth in online gambling at the firm.

GVC increased its full-year core earnings forecast for the second time in three months, saying that they will now come in between £670m and £680m.

Net gaming revenue, a key metric in the gambling business, climbed by 12% in the three months to the end of September, even though the football world cup partly fell during the same period last year.

Online sports-related bets were up 5% in the period, boosting net gaming revenue from those wagers by 16%.

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GVC and competitors like Flutter Entertainment and William Hill have also been expanding into the US market, where regulations on sports betting have been relaxed.

The company’s £4bn acquisition of Ladbrokes Coral in 2018 made it one of the world’s largest gambling groups.

GVC said it has seen an “encouraging start” from the launch of its online sports betting and gaming app BetMGM app in the US.

Retail gambling at GVC, which expects to close 900 of its shops in the next two years, proved resilient in spite of the clampdown on fixed-odds betting machines.

Over-the-counter net gaming revenue in the UK increased by 7% compared to the same period last year, even as revenue from the machines plummeted by 36%.

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The maximum stake allowed on the controversial betting terminals was lowered to £2 from £100 in April. The machines had come to dominate high-street gambling in the UK over the past two decades.

But campaigners had warned that the machines were highly addictive, and that they exploited problem gamblers.

GVC closed 41 shops in the three-month period. In addition to Ladbrokes, the firm also owns brands including Bwin, Crystalbet, and Eurobe. It has licences to operate in more than 20 countries.

Performance at GVC’s European retail stores was weaker than in the UK, with net gaming revenue declining by 4% and margins and wagers falling.

But revenue was flat, the firm said, if the impact of the world cup on the comparable period last year was taken into account.