Betfred plunges to deeper losses on back of FOBT changes

Betfred has plunged further into the red after it was hit by the crackdown on fixed odds betting terminals (FOBTs), despite the regulatory changes coming into force after the end of its accounting year.

Despite the slump, the family of betting magnate Fred Done were handed a £10.2 million dividend, the same as the two previous years.

The gambling mogul and his brother Peter, who are worth an estimated £1.4 billion, founded the company in 1967 and now run 1,650 betting shops.

Betfred founder Fred Done
Betfred founder Fred Done

The betting giant saw operating losses widen to £41.4 million in the year to September 2018, from £13.4 million the previous year.

The company slid to the heavy loss after it was hit by £119.6 million in exceptional costs, predominantly related to large writedowns for its retail business following the FOBT policy change.

In April, the Government introduced rules to reduce the maximum stake on FOBT machines from £100 to £2 in a bid to tackle gambling addiction.

In its latest set of company accounts, Betfred said the change “impacted” its loss for the year, although the full effect on customer behaviour will not be known for a number of years.

Prior to the Government crackdown, Mr Done warned that he could close up to 500 betting shops as a result, with rival bookmakers GVC, owner of Ladbrokes, and William Hill also warning of hundreds of closures.

Betfred, which also includes the racing pool businesses Tote and Totepool that it bought in 2011, saw turnover for the year jump 14.7% to £727.6 million.

The company said its current strategy is focused on reviewing its retail estate and the performance of its online business.