888 Strong End to 2011

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(Reuters) - British online gaming company 888 Holdings Plc. said it expects core profit for 2011 to be significantly above market expectations, aided by strength in its casino and poker businesses.

Cash-strapped Britons are staying at home more, watching TV and gambling online, updates from consumer-facing companies showed, as fears grow that the UK will slip back into recession.

The company, which operates 888 casino, poker, sport and bingo brands, said on Monday it would invest in several newly-regulated markets across Europe.

"This significant strategic investment, along with the increases in gaming duty, will have an impact on the group's profit expectations. However, the board still expects results for the year ending Dec. 31 2012 to be slightly ahead of current market expectations," 888 said in a statement.

Several online gambling companies have been seeking to break national monopolies in a number of EU countries -- a lucrative market with revenues of 80 billion euros in 2010.

888 shares, which have fallen 36 percent so far this year, closed at 35 pence on Friday on the London Stock Exchange, valuing the company at about 125 million pounds.