Entain Reports Online Growth for Q1

Gambling giant Entain has published its first quarterly trading update of 2021, reporting a dip in revenues. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, virtually all of the operator’s retail premises were forced to remain closed. Despite the disappointing figures, the group is optimistic for future quarters, as lockdown restrictions start to ease.

Jockeys racing horses around a racetrack.

Entain benefitted from this year’s Grand National, as it became the UK’s biggest ever online sports betting event. ©Bence Szemerey/Pexels

Online Growth

Entain is one of the biggest betting and gaming operators in the world, catering for both online and retail markets. The operator is perhaps best known for its popular brands, which include Coral, Ladbrokes and Foxy Bingo. Entain is one of the only gambling companies to be listed on the FTSE100. On top of that, the recent appointment of CEO Jette Nygaard-Andersen has made it one of only seven female-led FTSE100 firms.

Entain’s newly published quarterly update reveals how well the company traded between January 1st and March 31st 2021. The report highlights mixed results for the global betting and gaming group, as COVID-19 has continued to impact business. While online revenue performed well, the closure of its high street betting shops caused growth to fall.

Entain announced a strong first quarter for its online operations, as it built on the momentum seen during 2020’s fourth quarter. Online net gaming revenue grew by 33%, although that was still lower than the previous quarter’s figure of 41%. That’s still a positive result for Entain, and its online market has helped to keep the company’s overall operations afloat.

That latest figure marks Entain’s 21st consecutive quarter of double-digit growth, a feat that has been supported by interest in online gambling during the lockdown. While punters were unable to visit their local bookies, many turned to online casinos and betting sites instead. Most operators were able to successfully divert their retail customers to their online sites through targeted marketing campaigns.

Bookmakers did struggle to offer customers betting opportunities at the beginning of the pandemic, as most sporting fixtures ground to a halt. Some punters were forced to be resourceful and think outside the box, resulting in unusual betting activity on sports like marble racing. Mainstream sports were able to gradually return, although without spectators present at first.

Betting Shops Reopen

Earlier this month, the Grand National became the biggest ever online sports betting event in UK history. Last year’s fixture was replaced by a Virtual Grand National, which raised £2.6 million for NHS Charities Together. However, fans were keen to welcome the return of the real thing by placing bets on the biggest event of the racing calendar.

Flutter Entertainment estimated that more than £100 million was bet on the Grand National, which reached its finale on April 10th. Takings were actually lower than previous years, as the event took place when all of the UK’s betting shops were still closed. Nevertheless, bettors who didn’t want to miss out placed their wagers online, setting a new record for online sports betting.

Entain benefitted from the excitement, as over 150,000 customers went on its sites every minute, while the race was taking place. Every year a third of UK adults, roughly 13 million people, bet on the Grand National. The huge number of online bets placed wasn’t the only big record that was broken that day. Rachael Blackmore made history, as she became the first female jockey to win the race since its creation in 1839.

With betting shops in England and Wales now open again to the public, Entain expects its next quarters to be even better. Safety measures, such as mask-wearing, social distancing and Perspex screens have been put in place to protect customers and staff. Announcing the quarterly trading update, CEO Jette Nygaard-Andersen stated:

“With some easing of Covid restrictions, we are delighted to be welcoming customers back into our shops. While it has only been a handful of days since the re-opening in parts of the UK on the 12 April, we look forward to returning to more normal trading across our whole business.”

Exploring New Markets

Overall, the operator’s revenues were 13% lower when compared with the same period last year. The beginning of this year saw the UK and much of Europe in lockdown, with retail shut. According to Entain, almost all of its 3,000 betting shops were closed in the UK and Europe.

The quarter also saw Entain complete its acquisitions of Bet.pt in Portugal, and Enlabs AB in the Baltics. These purchases will allow Entain to further expand into new markets, increasing its base of customers. With mounting pressure on the UK’s market, arising from government gambling reforms, expansion into new jurisdictions is a smart move.

Entain is also part of a joint venture with US casino operator MGM. It reported strong momentum for BetMGM, with a market share increase of 19%. That figure was up by 1% on the previous quarter. Entain also stated that BetMGM was consistently the top iGaming operator in the US market, holding 23% of the market share.

Entain’s CEO took the opportunity to highlight the company’s continued progress with its Sustainability Charter. In March, Entain committed to going carbon neutral, with the aim of reaching net-zero carbon emissions by the year 2035. The company has also fulfilled other ambitions, with the launch of its Share Save plan for employees and trials of ARC, its enhanced player protection program. Closing the statement, Nygaard-Andersen expressed hope for Entain’s future, commenting:

“In line with our expectations, the momentum from the end of 2020 has carried into 2021. Although Covid creates some near-term uncertainty, by maintaining our focus on the customer, providing them with great products and services, we remain confident and excited in our long-term prospects.”

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