Markets take a flutter on bookmakers

SHARES in bookmakers bobbed upwards yesterday after an uneventful Budget saw chancellor Alistair Darling refrain from hitting the industry with tax hikes.

FTSE 250-listed Ladbrokes gained 4.3 per cent to 155p while William Hill climbed four per cent to 213p.

Oriel Securities analyst Jeffrey Harwood said: “Both companies have breathed a sigh of relief that there were no nasty surprises in the Budget. The threat of increased taxation at the moment is unfortunately going to be with us for some time, though.”

Gambling companies had fretted they could face a higher levy on gross win, the total amount a business takes from its customers in a year. After a difficult 2009 William Hill warned any increase on the tax – which currently stands at 15 per cent – would lead to 1,000 betting shops across the country closing.

William Hill and Ladbrokes both suffered last year on the back of an unpredictable string of sporting results and a particularly cold winter, which led to some events being cancelled. The factors were compounded by the inevitable trend of punters cutting back on fluttering during the recession.

Bookies are pinning their hopes on the World Cup and the rise of online gambling to drive revenues this year.