LADBROKES was on a losing streak in 2009 with the recession leading punters to place fewer and lower bets.
Pre-tax profits slumped 28 per cent to £191.3m after a tough year in which it was forced to tap shareholders for £274.6m in October.
The UK’s biggest bookmaker said its 2,000 UK betting shops suffered a 7.2 per cent fall in the amount of money gambled by punters.
The start of the football season did little to boost its coffers with only four draws out of 66 matches in the Premier League. As punters tend to back a team rather than bet on a draw, it was therefore forced to pay out more in winnings.
"2009 was a challenging year for Ladbrokes. We were impacted by the deteriorating economic environment and the industry-wide issue of lower third-quarter gross win margins,” chairman Peter Erskine said.
The poor year is reflected in the dividend which stands at 3.5p – down from 14.15p in 2008.
The group remained cautious in its outlook for 2010 as rising unemployment and tough economic conditions take their toll.
Severe weather conditions also led to horse races and football matches being cancelled, sending revenues so far this year down 4.6 per cent.
However, Ladbrokes said it is ploughing ahead with its store openings, investing in its online presence and cutting costs.
It is freezing staff pay until next year and closing a call centre in Liverpool.
Ladbrokes is also hoping its lucrative gaming machines will pile the pressure on its rivals including William Hill with the initial trials showing promising results.
At the start of the year its chief executive Chris Bell suddenly resigned after a 20-year career with the group.
Its shares were down more 4.5 per cent to 149.5p.