888 profit halves on higher gaming duties

Higher gaming duties more than halved 888’s profit last year, even as revenue hit a record 560.3 million US dollars (£445.3 million).

The betting business, which runs online casinos and bingo, said profit before tax hit 45.3 million US dollars (£36 million) in 2019, down from 108.7 million dollars (£86.5 million) a year earlier.

It revealed the 58% fall in profit alongside a 6% jump in revenue, largely driven by its casino business, which accounts for more than half of turnover and grew by 13%.

The business was forced to pay an extra 25.6 million dollars (£20.4 million) in added gaming taxes.

Chief executive Itai Pazner said: “2019 was a year of further strategic progress for 888. During the year, 888 welcomed a record number of new customers – more than a million – to its international brands, launched in new regulated markets with very encouraging initial results, and completed the acquisition of a first-class sports betting platform and team.”

As an online-only business, 888 should be able to largely weather the coronavirus pandemic, which started after the period that it reported on Wednesday, bosses said.

However, it recognised that customers who are stuck inside all day might be more exposed to picking up harmful online gambling habits.

Mr Pazner said: “We continue to recognise that, with people spending more time at home and with increased levels of stress and economic uncertainty, 888’s unwavering commitment to preventing gambling related harm is even more important than ever.

“We are proactively communicating with our customers to provide information on safer gambling and, where necessary, offer support.”

The company’s computers have also been set up to look out for new forms of potentially problem behaviour, so they can be flagged to human reviewers.

Mr Pazner added: “Underpinned by the strength of 888’s technology, our growing customer base and our talented and committed team, the board continues to see a number of significant and exciting growth opportunities for 888 which we are confident of progressing during 2020 and beyond.”