BetInternet a winner despite pulling out of US market
By Linda
Online gaming group has cut full-year losses and increased its customer base despite pulling out of the US due to concerns over regulation.

The company posted operating losses for the year to 31 May of £1.69m, down from £2.38m, and increased gross profit by 139% to £2.87m.

And, despite the closure of its fixed odds betting accounts in the US during the year, customer accounts still rose 188% during the year to 23,795. Online betting sales also increased 330% to £38.67m and the margin on those bets rose to 6.2%.

The ongoing debate over anti-gambling legislation in the US has seen firms pushing into European and other markets instead and Betinternet's major area of focus continues to be the Far East, whose gamblers generate almost three-quarters of its sales.

However, growth in the UK, where it gains 6% of its turnover, only remains a 'medium-term possibility', the company said, as it cannot market directly to UK gamblers without having a UK presence and thus paying betting duty.

The company said the costs of setting up a UK-based operation continued to outweigh the benefits, but added that the situation was 'under review.'

After being subject to a number of approaches from other firms last year, Betinternet instead opted during the period to pursue funds through separate subscription and placing agreements. These, it claimed will give it additional equity, net of expenses, of £3.7m.

However, it said consolidation in the industry is 'inevitable', and that it was still 'actively seeking' partnerships or acquisitions to boost its sales.

It has also sought to reduce its emphasis on more costly telephone betting for professionals to focus on internet gambling. While its total sales rose to £53.01m, telephone-betting turnover fell 65% from £39.55m in 2001 to £13.95m in 2002.

Of its departure from the US, the firm opined that the market would eventually open up, but wouldn't guarantee so: 'By operating in a transparent manner, within a well regulated environment, your company is well placed to participate in that market growth when, and if, the opportunity arises.'

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