Ladbrokes wins as high rollers lose

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The Independent Online

Ladbrokes has announced a 45 per cent increase in annual profits, delivered almost entirely by a miserable run of luck for its richest customers.

The bookmaker's growth – in marked contrast to a 2 per cent fall in profits announced by William Hill on Wednesday – saw it declare annual profits of £344m for 2007. The figure included £184m of profits from its telephone betting business, up from £17m in 2006, after a string of unsuccessful bets from high-roller clients. No single event was responsible for these clients' losses and Ladbrokes warned this end of the business could be particularly volatile.

Ladbrokes said its fixed-odds betting terminals had also delivered strong gains, with sales up by more than 20 per cent. Christopher Bell, its chief executive, said Ladbrokes had also enjoyed a strong start to the year, with revenues up 16 per cent during the first seven weeks of 2008, and that he was not concerned about consumer confidence. "Bookmakers tend to be very robust in a recession," he said.

The bookmaker now intends to concentrate investment on its internet betting service, where sales grew by 7 per cent last year. It is also racing to open new shops in Italy and Spain before the summer's European Championship football tournament.

The company confirmed it intends to sell its final casino, based in Paddington in London, and said it had received several expressions of interest, with a deal expected before the end of the year.