BOOKMAKER Ladbrokes is to shut some of its shops after a plunge in profits, it revealed today.
The decision to close up to 50 of its 2,300 shop estate came as chief executive Richard Glynn said its internet gambling offer was catching up with rivals such as William Hill ahead of this summer’s football World Cup.
He said product upgrades included a single wallet allowing punters to bet on sport and play casino games from one account.
Pre-tax profits last year fell by two-thirds from £200.7 million to £67.6m, partly because of a sharp decline in the contribution of “high roller” gamblers from £30m to £5.9m.
Glynn said gaming machines had been a big contributor to profits in recent years, but the market had slowed more than had been expected in 2013.
The firm is responding by replacing its 9,000 cabinets with more sophisticated models over the first half of this year. The move comes amid calls for the use of fixed-odds betting terminals – dubbed the “crack cocaine of gambling” – to be banned or limited.
Ladbrokes said a boardroom committee will be set up to focus on problem gambling, and that from next year the company will link the pay of top executives to efforts to ensure responsible use of gaming machines.
“Problem gamblers, contrary to popular myth, are not good for business,” Glynn said. Ladbrokes said sporting results so far in 2014 have largely favoured customers.
The full-year dividend is pegged at 8.9p, courtesy of an unchanged final payout of 4.6p.