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Sportingbet management in UIGEA settlement talks with US authorities

The UK online gambling group Sportingbet has posted a 98% increase in pre-tax profits in Q3 of its financial year, and based on initial Q4 numbers has expressed confidence in the future. Investors will take added comfort from the news that the company is actively engaged in settlement negotiations with the US Department of Justice in an attempt to emulate PartyGaming in wiping the slate clean on American operations pre-UIGEA.

Operating profit for the third quarter to April 30,2009 was up 34% to £9.8 million (£7.3 million in Q3,2007) with the punters wagering £431.7 million - up 18% for the quarter.

Net profit rose to £8.2 million, an impressive rise from £3.4 million at the same point a year ago, whilst pre-tax profit rose 98% to £8.3 million, compared with £4.2 million on a quarterly basis, and by a remarkable 236% on a nine month basis to £21.5 million, from £6.4 million during the same period last year.

Net gaming revenue climbed to £43.8 million, well up from £40.7 million last year.

Management reported robust growth in sports betting, mainly due to wagering on European soccer leagues and the Champions League. Sportsbetting accounted for 66% of the Q3 income.

Online poker results were somewhat weaker at 12% of quarerly income and lacklustre contributions from casino games of 22% were noted.

The fourth quarter of Sportingbet's financial year has started strongly with gross gaming revenue for the month of May 2009 19% above the same period last year, giving the directors cause for "cautious optimism" regarding the full year results.

Sportingbet customers in Spain and Greece are increasingly betting on soccer games during the match itself, Chief Executive Officer Andy McIver said. A total of 51% of all customers bet on matches during the game, up from 47% in the previous quarter, he reported. Greek sportsbetting rose 57%, Spain's 34% and in Eastern Europe 18%.

European turnover grew by 33% during the quarter to £264 million, with net gaming revenues reaching £25 million, compared with £21 million in 2008.

Yield per customer in sports wagering rose 36% to £130.7, and the number of bets placed per player was up 22%.

Surprisingly, only 6% of the company's business came from the UK, prompting McIver to suggest that a marketing push may be imminent in the region. The French market currently contributes a mere 4% of income, but management has the upcoming liberalisation of the gambling sector in that country on its list of priorities.

The online poker results were not as positive, the Sportingbet reporting a decline in revenues from European poker players of 15%playing poker in Europe has declined by 15%.

"Poker undoubtedly had an element of fad about it," McIver said, adding that Web-based poker companies like Pokerstars and Full Tilt Poker that continued to operate in the U.S. had a "massive liquidity advantage" over European-based operators.

A more enlightened approach to advertising in Australia which allowed gambling more scope contributed to a 61% rise in the number of Internet bets placed Downunder, although high-roller telephone betting business declined. Australian sports wagering showed only a small increase of 1% to £152.7 million with net gaming revenues dropping to £3.9 million from £5.2 million during the same period last year.

The currency fluctuations of the past year had not affected the group significantly, with more than 90% of its revenues earned in non-sterling currencies, it said.

Sportingbet reported a net cash position of £31.3 million at the end of its third quarter, and has indicated that it is still interested in making acquisitions as the online gambling industry consolidates.

Source: InfoPowa News

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