Owner of Leeds-based Sky Bet records strong sales as gamblers turn to online casinos

The owner of Leeds-based Sky Bet has said the Covid-19 restrictions which have forced its high street bookie branches to close is costing the business an estimated £9 million a month in lost underlying pre-tax profits for each month lockdowns in the UK and Ireland remain in place.

Tuesday, 2nd March 2021, 3:10 pm
Sky Betting and Gaming has revealed plans for what it’s post-covid office will look like when it moves into 4 Wellington Place later this year. Picture: John Kees Photography

Parent company Flutter added that, overall, it benefited from strong sales in 2020 as lockdowns and restrictions saw bored casual gamblers turn to online casinos in huge numbers.

Sales soared 106% to £4.4 billion in 2020, although pre-tax profits fell from £136 million to just £1 million due to costs associated with its 12.3 billion dollar (£9.3 billion) merger with Canadian rival Stars Group, creating the biggest betting company in the world by revenue.

Group revenue grew by 28% to £5.3bn while EBITDA increased by 16% to £1.2bn, both on a proforma basis.

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A spokesman for Flutter, the company which owns Sky Bet, Paddy Power and Betfair, recently confirmed a report in the Sunday Telegraph that it handed its 14,000 staff a £1,000 bonus for helping to steer the business through the coronavirus pandemic.

Speaking earlier this week, Peter Jackson, Group CEO of Flutter said: “To recognise the hard work, focus and resilience over the course of an incredibly challenging year, we recently gifted all colleagues a share award worth £1,000 giving them a stake in the business."

Flutter bosses added that they welcome new rules being implemented by the Gambling Commission that will see online slot machine operators limiting the speed of the games, stop using sounds and images suggesting a “win” when the user has lost, and end the use of auto-play settings.

Chief executive Peter Jackson said: “Safer gambling is critical to building a sustainable global business and we are determined to lead the industry in implementing the highest standards of customer protection across our markets.

“This includes the UK, where we welcome the Government’s review of gambling legislation and support the delivery of a balanced framework that will protect vulnerable customers while allowing the many who enjoy a bet to continue to do so safely.”

In the final three months of 2020, when peaks of Covid-19 grew globally, Flutter added it had 7.6 million monthly online players, with particularly strong growth in the US, where gross gaming revenues hit 1.1 billion dollars (£790 million).