Football pools firm Sportech, which owns the New Football Pools comprising the famous Littlewoods and Vernons pools companies, reported this week that it is turning around 15 years of declining interest by unveiling a remarkable 39 percent rise in annual profits.
The group is now a net recruiter of football pools customers - helped by strong online growth - for the first time since 1994, reports the Press Association.
After suffering years of a serious decline in customers, the rate of decline in NFP classic pools games has slowed to 7 percent, while the firm has gained 25 000 active customers for its new Footballpools.com website since August.
The firm said the relaunch had also enabled it "to target a new and younger customer base, as well as re-engage with former players".
Sportech said underlying pre-tax profits advanced 39 percent to GBP16.8 million in 2008, and gross win rose 20 percent to GBP 71.8 million.
Customer numbers are showing their "strongest resilience" since 1994 despite the tough economic climate, and the company reported some 650 000 players a week across all platforms. A spokesman emphasised the key role played by the online marketing and distribution agreement signed with 888.com in June 2008. Sportech said it expected to announce further distribution agreements soon.
"Sportech's position as a high-volume, small-value-ticket gaming business places it in a favourable position to weather the economic downturn, as it has done on many occasions since the business was founded in 1923," a company spokesman said.
Alongside the GBP 3 million top prize for the main pools competition, Sportech has also branched into new games including Premier 10 - which focuses on the Premier League - and Footy 15, featuring fixtures from England's top two divisions, the Scottish Premier League and internationals.
The firm has also benefited from a deal to distribute some of its games in the betting shops of the UK's biggest bookmaker, Ladbrokes.
Sportech is in a strong position to pursue international pari-mutuel skill gaming opportunities particularly in Asia and Eastern Europe, and said it was having advanced discussions with a number of interested parties. CEO Ian Penrose commented: “With many of the challenging immediate operational and financial initiatives now completed, Sportech, as a high-volume, small-value-ticket gaming business, enters 2009 in a significantly stronger position to withstand the economic downturn.”
Operating profit for the full year to December 31 2008 reached GBNP 22.6 million, and pre-tax profit increased by 39 percent to GBP 16.8 million (FY 2007: GBP 12.1 million).
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