Football losses spoil Sportingbet results

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Online gaming company Sportingbet blamed "an unusually high number of unfavourable sporting results" in American football and European soccer for a disastrous final two weeks of September, in a trading update issued yesterday.

The finance director Andy McIver said that American football, which accounts for about 35 per cent of total bets placed annually, had seen eight of 12 favourites winning in televised NFL matches last week.

The company also suffered from the top three clubs in each of Europe's four biggest football leagues having lost just three of the 120 matches played so far this season, he added.

The company said that losses for Manchester United and Chelsea in European competitions this week had, however, been a welcome boost for bookmakers but these fall outside the reporting period.

The company said operating profits for the six months to the end of September "will be approximately £2m below expectations" of £2.5m.

Earlier this year Sportingbet was the subject of takeover speculation and a spokesman for the company said that consolidation was inevitable within the highly fragmented £75bn per annum online gaming market, of which Sportingbet as the market leader has just a 1.5 per cent share. He added that Sportingbet saw itself very much "as a consolidator not a consolidatee".

Another issue which has hindered the company's stock performance was the legally grey area over online sport betting in the US, which accounts for over 70 per cent of the company's business. Mr McIver said that any decision on blocking internet gambling was still some way off. The company anticipates releasing interim results on October 23. Meanwhile its shares fell 1.25p to 26p yesterday.