Bookmakers See Shares Plunge Amid Fears of Online Clampdown

By Martin Green10 November 2019
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Bookmakers See Shares Plunge Amid Fears of Online Clampdown

British gambling companies all saw their shares plunge this week after the All Party Parliamentary Group for Gambling Related Harm called for a clampdown on online casinos. The UK government has already forced operators to reduce the maximum spin on virtual roulette games from £100 to £2. Now it looks set to go after online casinos too, as the maximum stake of £100 per spin still stands there. The APPG demanded a “root-and-branch” reform of online gambling in order to protect vulnerable people. “For too long, online gambling operators have exploited vulnerable gamblers to little or no retribution from the regulator,” said Conservative MP Iain Duncan Smith. William Hill saw its shares fall 12.3%, Ladbrokes Coral owner GVC plunged 10.6% and Paddy Power Betfair owner Flutter was down 3% on the back of the news.

The brothers behind Betfred have paid themselves a £46 million dividend from their business consultancy group. The cap on the maximum stake at the Fixed Odds Betting Terminals led the operator to warn it could close 500 betting shops. Betfred suffered losses of £18.1 million and £43.8 million over the past two years. However, Fred and Peter Done also own a consultancy firm called Peninsula and it is thriving. The firm provides provides human resources, employment law and health and safety services, with operations in Ireland, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. Profits rose by nearly 20% to £41.2m on record turnover of £270.6m during 2018-19, and The Times reports that staff numbers have grown by about 500 to almost 2,750 in just 12 months.

Paddy Power owner Flutter Entertainment is reportedly planning to replace outgoing chairman Gary McCann with Andrew Higginson of supermarket chain Morrisons, according to The Sunday Times. McCann is now 69 years old and planning to retire from the board. Higginson is 62 and he has previously worked for Unilever, Guinness, Laura Ashley, Burton, Tesco and Poundland. He has spent four years as chairman at Morrisons. Flutter, headquartered in Dublin and listed in London, is in the process of buying Sky Bet and PokerStars owner The Stars Group in order to create the world’s largest online gambling company.

Some of the UK’s leading betting companies have committed £10 million to a programme that teaches children about the potential dangers of gambling. The group includes Aspers, Bet365, Caesars, Flutter, Genting, GVC, Playtech, Rank Group, Sky Bet and William Hill. “These commitments are an important step forward for the sector in their own right and also signal a genuine desire to ensure that acting responsibly is at the heart of our businesses,” said Flutter chief executive Peter Jackson. Anna Hemmings, the chief executive of GamCare, which will help run the programme, added that education is essential in ensuring that young people understand the risks of gambling.