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Stress from coronavirus lockdown could spark problem gambling, warns 888

By August Graham, PA City Reporter

Online gambling firm 888 has said it will need to be extra cautious to prevent problem gambling as people stay inside under added stress during the coronavirus crisis.

The business, which has seen an increase in some forms of online gambling in recent weeks due to the pandemic, said it was keeping its eyes open for signs of poor habits.

"The board recognises that, with people spending more time at home and with potentially increased stress from economic uncertainty, 888's vigilance on safe gambling and preventing gambling-related harm is even more important than ever," 888 said in a statement.

It came as the business revealed its average daily revenue so far this year was 18% higher than the same period in 2019.

It said trading was in line with expectations.

But the cancellation and postponement of major sporting events will start to have a big impact on the business, which gets 16% of its revenue from sports betting.

However, some of this will be made up by an increase in other parts of its business.

"There is currently evidence of increased customer activity in the group's casino and poker products that might, in part, compensate for the sports betting disruption for a period of time," 888 said.

"In the event of a prolonged period of global macro-economic uncertainty, it is possible that consumer spending across the group's online gaming product verticals may also become impacted."

If the severe disruption to the sports calendar continues until September the company will take a "high single digit" millions of dollars hit to ebitda (earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation).

The board said it was confident in 888's ability to manage the challenges to the business.

It is the latest in a line of betting companies to see an impact from the sports calendar.

Shares rose 33.5% to 111.5p on Tuesday.