888 is a winner with Spain's punters

Their country may be in recession with rioters on the streets, but the Spanish are tackling austerity by flocking online to play poker and fill the coffers of e-gaming company 888.

Investors piled into the shares as 888 flagged up profits "materially ahead" of City hopes this year on strong trading, sending the stock up 14 per cent to 74p.

The company is now the second-biggest player in the Spanish poker market after building "significant" market share as unlicensed operators are slowly squeezed out.

Spanish regulators granted 888 an e-gaming licence in May after a one-off payment of €7.4m (£5.8m).

Business will not be quite as bullish in the second half, however, as 888 ratchets up marketing spending in Spain, but it should comfortably exceed current forecasts of £46.5m in underlying earnings this year.

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