Punters flock to online casino operator

Internet casino 888 Holdings gave encouragement to the online gaming sector today as the number of regular players on its tables more than doubled in 12 months.

Internet casino 888 Holdings gave encouragement to the online gaming sector today as the number of regular players on its tables more than doubled in 12 months.

The number of people who gambled with 888 between July and September was up 118% on the same period last year to 316,553, boosted by a huge increase in poker.

This led to a 56% hike in gaming revenues to $70m (€58m) in the third quarter.

888 – the world’s largest online casino – said the final three months of this year had started well despite investors fearing a sharp slowdown in growth in the industry.

Chief executive John Anderson said: “Our performance for this three-month period has been particularly pleasing given that, historically, trading for the casino segment in July and August is the weakest for the year.

“The results for October are encouraging and the business continues to perform in line with our expectations in both poker and casino.

“We are confident that the 888 business model is strongly positioned to take advantage of the continued growth in the worldwide online gaming market.”

The number of people who played on 888’s poker tables in the third quarter was 143% higher at 228,252 than in the same three months last year.

The poker rake – money taken by 888 for each hand played on its websites - leapt 178% to $29.5m (€24.5m).

Meanwhile, the number of gamblers in 888’s casinos was up 73% to 88,301, which sent revenues 18.3% higher to $40.5m (€33.7m).

888 has more than 20 million account holders worldwide playing its gaming website, which include 888.com, Casino-on-Net.com, PacificPoker.com and Betmate.com. It is based in Gibraltar and has offices in Tel Aviv, Antigua and London.

Today’s trading statement was the first since it listed on the London stock market last month with a share price of 175p, which valued the company at £590m (€491.3m). Shares have fallen since then to change hands at 165p today.

888 said gaming revenues for the first nine months of 2005 were $194m (€161.5) – 51% higher than the first nine months of last year.

Casino revenues were up 16% to $120.4m (€100m), while the rake on the poker tables doubled to $73.4m (€61.1m).

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