Bookmaker News of the Week

By Martin Green19 May 2019
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Bet365 owners Denise Coates and family climbed two places to finish 19th in the Sunday Times Rich List 2019. Coates handed herself an eye-watering £220 million pay packet over the past year, while she also took home a £45 million dividend, and that made her the world’s highest-paid female executive. She began her career by working at her father’s betting shops and she went on to turn it into a global empire, with revenue of £2.9 billion and profits of £660 million in 2017-18. She runs it alongside father Peter and brother John, and it continues to go from strength to strength. However, their football team has not fared quite so well of late. They own local side Stoke City, with Peter serving as chairman, and they could only finish 16th in this season’s Championship table after suffering relegation from the Premier League last term.

Ladbrokes Coral owner GVC saw its share price increase after revealing that the impact from the decision to drop the maximum stake on FOBTs from £100 to £2 will not be as significant as initially feared. Its previous guidance stated the government decision would hit earnings by £145 million in 2020 and £120 million in 2021. Now it has changed that guidance to £120 million and £105 million respectively, which amounts to a £45 million earnings upgrade. “We have had an excellent start to the year with strong momentum across all divisions continuing into the second quarter,” said GVC’s chief executive, Kenneth Alexander, who sent the firm’s share price plummeting a couple of months ago after he sold a significant amount of personal holdings. “We are making great progress on the Ladbrokes Coral integration and we have a clear roadmap for delivery in the US, where it remains early days, but there is no doubt that this is a great long-term opportunity for GVC.” He added that the firm will record further cost synergies in 2020 as the Ladbrokes and Coral online brands move quickly onto the GVC platform.

William Hill has reported a 40% in revenue from FOBTs since the stakes were cut to £2 on April 1. The bookmaker released a trading statement this week and said the impact was “in line” with expectations, a sentiment echoed by Paddy Power Betfair. William Hill’s share price has fallen 60% over the past year, but chief executive Philip Bowcock is bullish about its prospects. “Online continues to show good momentum as we focus on growing our mass market customer base, while retail has begun to adapt to the new £2 machine gaming stake limit,” he said. “As anticipated enhanced customer due diligence measures impacted revenues in our online business in the period, while gross win margins returned to more normal levels. There were record actives for Cheltenham and the Grand National reflecting positive underlying customer trends, and we expect that the Mr Green performance will drive further progress in online performance later this year.”

Industry bête noir Tom Watson, the deputy leader of the opposition Labour Party, argued this week that gaming represents a “hidden epidemic”. He believes far too many Brits suffer from an addiction to gambling. “This is a public health issue,” Watson warns. “We need far more research into problem gambling, and far more specialist treatment for an addiction that ruins lives.” Reducing the maximum stake on FOBTs from £100 to £2 could be viewed as an opening salvo from the government, and there is considerable appetite to go after online sites next. The industry has voluntarily agreed to a whistle to whistle advertising ban during pre-watershed football matches, but Watson wants to see a more official clampdown. “The UK needs new gambling legislation that can curb the worst excesses of the industry and, importantly, keep pace with innovation,” he said.