Ladbroke blames loss of 200 jobs on Lottery's success

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The Independent Online

The pounds 100m a week being spent on the National Lottery and instant-win scratch cards was yesterday cited as the sole reason for the loss of 200 jobs at Ladbroke Racing, the UK's largest bookmaker.

The redundancies come a few months after 95 out of 500 jobs were axed at Vernons, the football pools operation which is part of the Ladbroke Group.

All the job losses at Ladbroke Racing are spread across 650 employees at head office and regional offices, taking in junior staff as well as senior management. The action will cost Ladbroke pounds 3m.

The 14,000 employed in the 1,900 betting shops are not affected. "We can't touch the shops because our business is about providing good service," a spokesman said.

Christopher Bell, managing director of Ladbroke Racing, added: "The impact of the National Lottery, particularly since the launch of Instants scratch cards in March, has created difficult trading conditions."

Before the lottery's launch in November, the company's management had budgeted for a 6.5 per cent increase in betting turnover this year and had increased staff numbers at the shops by around 1,000 for extended evening openings and the introduction of Sunday racing.

Turnover since March, when the Instants scratch cards became available, has fallen a further 6 per cent. Betting shop turnover to date is now showing a total fall of 1.5 per cent.

Leisure analysts said the company would be hard-pushed to improve on the pounds 83m profit made collectively last year by Vernons and Ladbroke Racing. Most, however, were braced for bad news from Ladbroke concerning the lottery and the company's share price closed unchanged at 167p.

To counter the financial impact from the lottery, the company is pushing the Government to make three changes to the Gaming Act.

They are a reduction in betting duty from 7.75 to 5.75 per cent, a lifting of the ban on amusement-with-prize machines in betting shops, and freedom to allow customers to place bets on the lottery.

Separately, Ladbroke's Hil-ton International hotel business announced a move into the Indian market which could involve an investment of $330m (pounds 206m) and create 6,000 jobs.

An agreement was signed yesterday in New Delhi with India's Bharat Hotels to include taking over management of the Holiday Inn Crowne Plaza in New Delhi, management of two new hotels in Bombay and Goa and other developments.

Impact of the lottery, page 20