Ladbrokes Blames Online Upgrade For Profits Dive
Ladbrokes has reported a 66% slump in annual profits as it invests heavily on improving its online business.
Britain's second biggest bookmaker admitted its brand had "underperformed" for a couple of years, with profits for 2013 coming in at £67.6m.
But the firm, which has struggled to keep pace with rival William Hill, said the operating profit took a hit due to upgrades to its online service.
It says it expects its digital operations to pick up in the second half of 2014 - in time for the football World Cup.
Ladbrokes chief executive Richard Glynn said the figure was disappointing but insisted progress was being made on improving its online offering.
Its mobile app has been upgraded while other improvements will allow a customer to have a single wallet for sport and casino products.
Its in-store gaming machines are also due for a revamp following a slowdown in growth.
Ladbrokes confirmed a story on Sunday by Sky News that it was to do more to crack down on problem gambling.
Amid calls for the use of the fixed-odds betting terminals - dubbed the "crack cocaine of gambling" - to be banned or limited, Ladbrokes said it would link the pay of its top executives to its efforts in ensuring the responsible use of gaming machines.
Mr Glynn said: "Responsible gambling is not a passing regulatory issue but a fact of life for all operators and an issue we take very seriously.
"Problem gamblers, contrary to popular myth, are not good for business."
The company's corporate affairs director,†Ciaran O'Brien, told Sky News: "This week we are launching new software and tools on the machines to ensure that people take breaks and set their own limits.
"You'll see every shop window in the country devoted to messaging about that. We're going to†have 20% of our advertising devoted to responsible gambling messages and we're putting it at their heart of our business by tying executive pay to responsible gambling."†
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