(Reuters) -British gambling group 888 raked in record revenue last year as punters flocked to its online casino games during the pandemic, yet growth slowed significantly in the final quarter as countries lifted COVID-19 restrictions.
Like other gambling companies across the globe, 888 has cashed in on record online interest as the closure of retail stores and a thirst for entertainment options during lockdowns lured more customers to betting apps and sites.
The online firm, which also offers poker games and sports betting, said revenue for 2021 rose 14% to $972 million. But it added that as COVID-19 curbs were lifted and policy changes in the Netherlands led to its exit from that market, 888 posted a 16% fall in fourth-quarter revenue, in line with its expectations.
Shares in the company fell as much as 3% before paring losses to be down 0.8% by 0958 GMT.
Analysts believe the company’s acquisition of William Hill assets, which is expected to close in the second quarter, will improve 888’s earnings and share performance this year.
The company last year announced the purchase of William Hill’s businesses outside the United States from casino group Caesars, propelling itself onto Britain’s high streets with 1,400 physical betting shops.
Dealmaking in the industry has picked up since the pandemic as American gambling firms look to British counterparts for their expertise in sports betting as the U.S. market opens up.
Last year 888 launched SI Sportsbook in Colorado ahead of the National Football League (NFL) season, in partnership with Sports Illustrated, with more states to follow.
Some analysts say, however, that 888’s U.S. operations remain too small to contribute meaningfully to its revenue at present.
(Reporting by Amna Karimi, Muhammed Husain and Yadarisa Shabong in Bengaluru; Editing by Rashmi Aich, Shounak Dasgupta and Pravin Char)