PartyGaming revenues soar 54%

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Further evidence of the explosion in the online gambling market emerged yesterday when PartyGaming reported soaring sales.

The world's biggest online gambling group shrugged off fears that censorious US politicians will in effect outlaw the industry to record revenues for the first quarter of £193m - up 54 per cent.

PartyGaming is looking to find new customers outside the US - a recognition that draconian legislation is a remote possibility. Its finance director Martin Weigold said: "I am not going to say we are not worried. We are never complacent. But there are formidable challenges to these bills becoming law."

The City was impressed with the numbers, with several analysts upgrading earnings forecasts. But Jamie Rollo, at Morgan Stanley, sounded a note of caution: "While we are confident the current bills are unlikely to be passed, that doesn't mean the operators are out of the woods yet."

The company signed up 263,254 new poker players in the three months to March, almost 50,000 more than in the same period a year earlier. Nearly 40 per cent of the sign-ups were from outside the US.

Shares in PartyGaming closed down 2.75p at 149p yesterday on profit-taking.

The growth of the company since flotation in June 2005 has made Anurag Dikshit, the co-founder, a fortune estimated at £1.7bn. He holds one-third of the stock.

Mitch Garber becomes the chief executive today, replacing Richard Segal.