Gambling firm 888 flags lower revenue amid UK regulatory uncertainty

Gambling firm 888 flags lower revenue amid UK regulatory uncertainty
By Reuters
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By Aby Jose Koilparambil

- British bookmaker 888 on Thursday warned of lower mid-year revenue amid tightened UK online gambling safety measures and the closure of its Dutch operations, sending its shares more than 6% lower.

Britain has introduced rules in recent years including a cap on the maximum stake on terminals, stricter age and identity checks for online gambling and more support for those who become addicted.

This week, Britain's Gambling Commission issued fresh guidance, which gambling firms have to take account of before the new rules come into effect in September.

London shares in 888, which enjoyed huge gains as COVID-19 lockdowns boosted online gambling, have lost about 43% this year.

The stock was down nearly 3% by 0826 GMT after falling as much as 6%.

"Deregulation is a huge theme for the gambling industry in the USA but the opposite is happening in many other jurisdictions," AJ Bell investment director Russ Mould said.

"Notably the UK, where affordability checks, maximum stakes and other safer betting measures could affect turnover, depending upon the government's final conclusions and legislation," Mould said, adding that 888's share fall could be due to the ongoing regulatory uncertainty.

888, which last year agreed to buy William Hill's international assets from U.S.-based owner Caesars Entertainment, also proposed to raise about 1.02 billion pounds ($1.25 billion) in debt.

The London-listed firm expects revenue of 330-335 million pounds ($403-$409 million) for the six months ending June 30, "broadly in line" with its expectations, it said. It reported half-year revenue of $528.4 million a year earlier.

William Hill revenue is expected to come in between 620-630 million pounds for the 26 weeks ended June 28, 888 said.

($1 = 0.8187 pounds)

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