Flutter Entertainment shares rallied 12% after the firm provided an encouraging Q1 trading update. The Paddy Power and Betfair owner said sports revenue has only declined 46% since the lockdown began, thanks largely to the continuation of horse racing in the US and Australia. Since March 16, only revenues are down just 32% year-on-year, as a 15% increase in online casino gaming has helped to offset the decline in sports betting. The firm also said it will pay all staff wages for the foreseeable future. “Should the duration of the crisis be such that not taking this support would jeopardise jobs, we will review our position,” the company said.
Betfred has won the latest round in a legal battle with HM Revenue & Customs over the treatment of VAT payments on Fixed Odds Betting Terminals. The bookmaker brought the case against the UK tax authority after claiming it has been incorrectly paying VAT on winnings during an eight-year period. The machines were exempt from tax when played in casinos or online. The First Tier Tribunal Tax Chamber found in Betfred’s favour. HMRC is now going through the appeals process, but the Upper Tribunal ruled in favour of Betfred this week. It could result in HMRC having to pay millions to bookmakers, but there are still higher courts of appeal for it to take the case to.
888 Holdings has reported a 6% year-on-year rise in revenue to $560.3 million for 2019. However, profit before tax decreased sharply, from $108.7 million in 2018 to $45.3 million in 2019, while EBITDA dropped 20%. 888 said increased gaming duties in the UK, expansion in regulated and taxed markets and an increase in overheads due to the Bet Bright acquisition reduced profitability in 2019. The firm added that it would press ahead with growth plans for 2020 in spite of the coronavirus lockdown. “Despite the headwinds of significantly increased gaming duties and challenging conditions in some of our global markets, 888 delivered a resilient financial performance during 2019 reflecting the strength of our unique combination of technology, compliance and diversification across regulated markets,” said chief executive Itai Pazner.
Bet365 has upset punters in Scotland by refusing to pay out on Raith Rovers winning the League One title. The Scottish football league seasons were abandoned this week due to the coronavirus shutdown. The SPFL named Dundee United, Raith and Cove as the winners of the Championship, League One and League Two respectively. Dundee United and Cove were well clear at the top of their respective divisions, and Bet365 had already paid out many punters that bet on them. It ran an early season promotion whereby it would pay bets as winners if a team opened up a 10-point lead at the top of the table. Many punters that bet on Dundee United and Cove had already therefore paid out many bets on those teams, and it agreed to pay all punters not covered by the promotion as a goodwill gesture. However, Raith were only one point clear of Falkirk and Bet365 declared the season null and void, leading some punters to complain. Celtic are already 13 points clear of Rangers in the Premiership, but a decision has not yet been made about that league.
Two Conservative MPs have faced criticism for accepting VIP tickets from Ladbrokes owner GVC Holdings to attend the Cheltenham Festival last month. The meeting went ahead just days before the coronavirus lockdown began, and it has been criticised for grouping tens of thousands of people together. Philip Davies and Caroline Nokes received eight tickets between them from GVC Holdings. “I accepted the tickets and declared them in accordance with the rules, which clearly you can establish from the register of members' interests,” said Nokes. “As you know it was prior to the lockdown being declared and there were no restrictions on movement.”