Shop closures drag Entain's overall revenue despite online strength

FILE PHOTO: General view inside a Ladbrokes shop in Harpenden, Britain, March 18, 2020. REUTERS/Peter Cziborra//File Photo

(Reuters) - British gambling group Entain reported a drop in total net gaming revenue for the first quarter on Thursday, as a hit from pandemic-led shop closures outweighed a bump in online betting during coronavirus lockdowns.

The company, which owns the Ladbrokes and Coral brands, said total net gaming revenue fell 13% for the three months ended March 31 even as online revenue leapt by 33%.

"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," Entain Chief Executive Jette Nygaard-Andersen said.

Bookmakers have benefited from a surge in online betting during the pandemic, which has to some extent offset the hit from betting shops being shut down due to the restrictions.

Underpinning that trend, the Grand National held last Saturday was Britain's biggest ever online sports betting event as punters went online or used mobile apps to bet on one of the most iconic horseracing events.

Entain, which saw more than 150,000 customer visits on its websites per minute during the race, also said that the momentum from the end of 2020 has carried into 2021.

The blue-chip company, which rebuffed a takeover approach from its U.S. joint venture partner MGM earlier this year, last month kept its dividend suspended despite a profit jump as it took a cautious stance.

(Reporting by Muvija M in Bengaluru; Editing by Tomasz Janowski)

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