Ladbrokes may shut shops in North as part of closure plan

Ladbrokes may shut shops in North as part of closure plan

Ladbrokes shops in the Republic will avoid being hit by a plan to close hundreds of the British bookmaker's shops over the next two years, but some of its shops in the North may be shut.

Gaming group GVC - which owns the Ladbrokes-Coral business - plans to close up to 900 shops across both brands in the UK by the end of 2021. The move is as a direct result of lost revenues from Britain's decision, earlier this year, to slash the maximum stake for in-store betting machines from £100 to £2. It has been estimated that the move will result in the closure of around a quarter of all UK betting shops - across all brands - and the loss of 12,000 jobs.

Such machines - or fixed-odds betting terminals - do not feature in betting shops in the Republic, where Ladbrokes operates nearly 140 shops. However, the company's shops in the North will be reviewed on the same basis as its UK estate.

In August, Ladbrokes reported a 1% increase in net gaming revenue in its Irish operations for the first half of this year. However, Ireland was the weakest first-half performer for Ladbrokes-Coral; lagging the UK's 10% growth and even the 12% revenue growth seen in Belgium.

Ladbrokes' Irish division emerged from an examinership process four years ago 60 shops lighter and with 250 less employees.

In its latest trading update, covering the third quarter, GVC said net gaming revenue in its European Retail division - of which Ireland forms a large part - fell by 4% on a year-on-year basis. Total group revenue was down 1%.

Earlier this year, GVC moved some of its online bingo, betting and gaming-facilitating computer servers to Dublin as a contingency measure against a no-deal Brexit.

GVC has also raised its annual core earnings forecast for the second time in three months as a joint venture cashed in on a booming online sports betting market in the US.

The group, which has a joint-venture with US hotel and casino operator MGM Resorts International, said it had seen a good start to its BetMGM mobile app launched in September in New Jersey.

The company now expects full-year core earnings in the range of £670m to £680m (€745m-€756m), as it suffered a smaller than expected hit to UK betting shops from tighter regulation and revenue from online gambling rose.

Foreign markets have been a boon for firms like GVC, which also owns the Foxy Bingo brand, as more US states allow legal online betting and other countries offer softer rules on gambling than in Britain. GVC said it shut an additional 41 shops in the quarter in Britain.

-additional reporting Reuters

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