Online Gambling Still a Safe Bet

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BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Europe's online gambling companies should buck the economic downturn with around 10 percent growth in revenues this year, the chief executive of the European Remote Gambling Association said on Monday.

"The online betting market is coping very well with the slowdown and is bucking the trend," Clive Hawkswood told Reuters in an interview.

"The main thing that we still have going for us is that our markets are still growing and our markets are very diverse."

Last month, Britain's top two bookmakers Ladbrokes and William Hill both posted a rise in profits.

Hawkswood said his members, which also include Unibet, 888.com and Paddy Power, were not completely immune from the worst financial crisis in nearly 80 years and were making adjustments to their businesses.

"Projections from 12 months to 18 months ago are certainly not the same, but if you compare (them) to other industries, the online gambling industry can still expect to do very well," Hawkswood said.

"I would expect to see growth for the industry of around 10 percent this year."

Bookmakers are widely regarded as being less vulnerable than other retailers to the recession given the habitual nature of gamblers, but many punters are switching to the internet, forcing traditional high street betting shops to close. 

"There is a general trend of moving from traditional outlets to online operators. Online betting has less overheads and costs for both the operator and consumer," Hawkswood said.

"I did most of my Christmas shopping for example online because it was cheaper and more convenient. It is cheaper for the punter to log on at home or in the office than travel to the local bookmakers."

Hawkswood said his industry should maintain its resilience as the impact of the recession spreads into the real economy.

"Betting is not an expensive hobby and is relatively cheap. Stakes are small and affordable. People will continue to have a flutter even when times are tough," he said.

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