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Wednesday, 29 May, 2002, 16:46 GMT 17:46 UK
Online betting set for World Cup boom
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Online gaming firms are set to enjoy a surge in business during the World Cup, according to a new report.

The tournament will be the first major opportunity for firms to persuade punters to have a flutter via the net, the research said.

"The World Cup's been a huge marketing tool and there will be an explosion of betting on the internet," said Professor Leighton Vaughan Williams, co-author of the report which was published in the Economic Journal.

The study was released on the day that the UK betting chain William Hill announced further details of its imminent stock market flotation.

The company said its shares would go on sale at between 190-240 pence, valuing the business at about 920m, based on the mid-point of the price range.

Coming of age

Prof Vaughan Williams, director of the Betting Research Unit at Nottingham Trent University, said betting firms could earn about 300m in total from the World Cup - and about 10% of bets would be made online.

William Hill betting shop
William Hill hopes investors will back its shares
"The proportion of internet betting will be higher than at any other event," he said.

"Once people start betting on the internet they tend to keep betting on the net. We're looking at exponential growth."

A spokesman from William Hill agreed with the findings.

"We expect our internet business to come of age in this World Cup," he said.

"Euro 2000 saw a big increase in awareness that you could bet online and this time round there's [going to be] a real explosion."

Betting on success

Meanwhile William Hill was also promoting its forthcoming flotation on the stock market.

"We have a track record of growth," said chief executive David Harding.

"In addition we can see where the growth will come from with industry deregulation."

Early indications suggest the float will be a success, with spread betting firms quoting unofficial grey market prices at the higher end of the 190-240p price range.

The company will be hoping it has a more successful listing than some other recent flotations.

Music retailer HMV has seen its shares sink since listing, while pub group Punch Taverns had to cut its share price in order to get the float away.

Up for grabs

The owners of Britain's third largest betting shop chain, Coral, have decided to sell the business rather than float it.

Coral is currently owned by Deutsche Bank's Morgan Grenfell Private Equity, and is expected to raise between 700-750m.

Rank Group, Stanley Leisure and the privately owned Gala Group are reported to be among the firms interested in buying the chain.

Figures released on Wednesday showed Coral nearly doubled its earnings during the half-year to 14 April.

Earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation rose 90% to 38.7m.

Shares in the spread betting firm IG Group held firm on Wednesday following a big slide the day before.

On Tuesday, the firm's shares had tumbled nearly a third to a new low of 209.5p after it issued a profits warning.

When the market closed on Wednesday, IG's shares had regained 9.5p to 219p.

See also:

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