Ladbrokes to axe 60 betting shops

Published: Thursday 26th February 2015 by The News Editor

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Ladbrokes is to close another 60 betting shops as it continues to shake up its estate in readiness for a hike in taxation on gaming machines.

The company started 2015 with just over 2,200 shops in the UK after closing 89 sites where combined losses amounted to £1.5 million last year.

It expects another 60 shops will close in the coming year, with the company facing “significant headwinds” from the March 1 increase in Machine Gaming Duty from 20% to 25% and the recent levy of a point of consumption tax.

In the second quarter of this year, new regulations concerning the staking of more than £50 on gaming machines are also being introduced.

Profits were 13.5% lower at £98 million in 2014 after a strong World Cup performance was offset by an “exceptionally high” loss of £8.1 million on Boxing Day football when leading Premier League teams secured victories.

Across all its platforms, the company said the day’s fixtures represented its worst football daily loss on record. It also reported weaker staking trends, particularly for racing, across the year.

Ladbrokes said: “The increase in Machine Gaming Duty from March 1 and the anticipated impact of the new UK regulations in 2015 means that further shop closures will be inevitable.

“We continue to optimise the performance of our estate and expect to close a further 60 shops during 2015. We will again try to limit the impact of these closures on our shop teams.”

The company said it was encouraged by a 30% rise in second half operating profits, which was a “considerable improvement” on the first half fall of 33.7%.

Chief executive Richard Glynn, who is leaving the company this year, said: “We are confident that Ladbrokes is competitive with clear plans to improve further our business and positioned to deliver a good result in 2015.”

It deployed more self-service betting terminals across the estate, bringing the total to 1,730. They are popular with football customers, allowing them to build customised coupons and bet across a range of other sports and events.

Around 80% of betting using the machines is on football. It will deploy more than 2,000 additional self-service machines this year, with at least one per shop.

The company also rolled out more than 9,000 new Clarity gaming machines in time for the World Cup, offering roulette and the faster growing £2 stake slots.

Mr Glynn took the helm in April 2010 when he was tasked with a five-year recovery programme that included overhauling Ladbrokes’ online and gaming machine operations, which have lagged behind its rivals.

But pressure on the chief executive intensified in August when the company’s half-year profits fell by almost half to £27.7 million.

Published: Thursday 26th February 2015 by The News Editor

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