Ladbrokes owner hails ‘excellent’ trading despite regulatory crackdown

Ladbrokes owner GVC Holdings has hailed an “excellent” trading performance over 2019 despite a year of regulatory upheaval.

The betting giant said earnings before tax and interest for the year to December 31 were at the top end of its expectations of between £670 million and £680 million.

Despite posting lower sales from its high street bookmakers, the firm said trends in its UK retail arm are currently performing ahead of its forecasts.

And it said group net gaming revenue increased by 2% for the year despite retail decline.

UK retail like-for-like revenues dived 12% over the year and 11% over the final three months of 2019, due to the impact of new restrictions on fixed-odds betting terminals (FOBTs).

In April, the Government reduced the maximum stake on the terminals from £100 to £2 in a bid to help address problem gambling.

Gambling firms including GVC announced significant high street closures as a result, with Ladbrokes ploughing ahead with plans to close 900 shops by April 2021.

The company said it saw a 31% decline in revenues from its machines in the final quarter as a result of the legislation, while over-the-counter revenues increased by 17%.

GVC said it benefited from “strong” online growth in the fourth quarter, with digital revenues rising 11% on the back of strong sports revenues.

Meanwhile, European revenues for the period increased by 5%, driven by a 7% increase in wagers, which offset the impact of disruption in Belgium.

GVC chief executive Kenneth Alexander said: “The group’s operational and financial performance in 2019 has been excellent, with the strong momentum reported at quarter three continuing throughout quarter four.

“The performance continues to be driven by our industry-leading technology, products, brands, marketing capability, people and local execution, all of which is underpinned by our determination to spearhead the industry’s approach to responsible gaming.

“As the group continues to deliver the opportunities provided by both the Ladbrokes Coral integration and our sports betting joint venture in the US, the board is confident that the group is well placed for a successful 2020.”

The announcement comes days after the gambling regulator announced that people will be banned from using credit cards to make online bets from April.