Olympic effect weighs heavy on Ladbrokes

THE OLYMPICS resulted in less money being wagered at high street betting shops, Ladbrokes said yesterday, as more people stayed at home to watch the coverage of the Games.

The company said amounts spent in its betting shops fell 4.9 per cent in the three months to October on the same period last year, a dip it also blamed on a number of horse racing events being cancelled.

However, the firm continued to perform relatively well, with turnover rising 3.9 per cent. Operating profit however, was fairly flat at £49.2m

Ladbrokes was especially vulnerable to the decline in high street performance, since its online operations are far behind those of its rivals.

The company is undergoing a radical revamp of its website, a process which has been repeatedly delayed. However, the bookie did say that it had begun to roll out the new site, a process it intends to finish in the new year. The company fired its digital head Richard Ames in August over delays to the roll-out.

“Digital will be the main driver of sentiment, and the jury is still out,” Nick Batram of Peel Hunt said.

The disappointing Olympics news did not spook investors however, with the company’s share price relatively unchanged yesterday.

“You had 24 hours of free, high-quality TV sports and it went on for four or five weeks. People were watching that rather than going to betting shops,” said Ladbrokes’ boss Richard Glynn. “It’s a once in a lifetime thing.”