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Ladbrokes owner suffers as shop closures eclipse online boom

FILE PHOTO: Outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Manchester

By Muvija M

(Reuters) -British gambling group Entain reported a drop in total net gaming revenue for the first quarter on Thursday, as a hit from shop closures outweighed a surge in online betting during coronavirus lockdowns.

The FTSE 100 company, which owns the Ladbrokes and Coral brands, said total net gaming revenue fell 13%, even as online revenue leapt by a third.

Entain’s shares were up 1.6% at 0850 GMT after the group said it was looking forward to a return to more normal business as betting shops in parts of the country reopened on Monday, while the momentum in its online business had continued.

That is expected to ease, however, as restrictions ease.

“There are competing leisure activities, with restaurants and cinemas opening up,” Chief Financial Officer Rob Wood told Reuters.

Underscoring the shift in betting habits, Saturday’s Grand National was Britain’s biggest ever online sports betting event as punters turned to mobile apps to bet on one of the world’s most famous horse racing events.

“It is a real shame that shops couldn’t be open for it. It typically attracts customers who don’t necessarily have an online gambling app on the phone,” Wood said.

Hargreaves Lansdown analyst Laura Hoy said that while the surge in internet gambling might wane eventually, “we expect that some customers will have shifted online permanently.”

Entain, which rebuffed a takeover approach from its U.S. joint venture partner MGM earlier this year, last month kept its dividend suspended despite a profit jump, citing the pandemic.

(Reporting by Muvija M in Bengaluru; additional reporting by Yadarisa ShabongEditing by Tomasz Janowski and Mark Potter)

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