UK online gambling group is setting ambitious targets

The British online and interactive television betting group Sky Betting and Gaming created interest through a Yorkshire Post feature article on its recent move to the midlands of England.

Sky's betting and gaming business was founded in 2000 when BSkyB acquired Sports Internet Group in a deal which included telephone and online sports betting company Surrey Sports, along with Planet Football and Opta Index.

Surrey Sports was re-branded in July 2002 to create Sky Bet.

In 2006, online betting companies Totalbet and UKbetting were consolidated into Sky Bet after BSkyB's purchase of 365 Media Group.

The subsequent success of the group prompted parent BSkyB to expand into the betting and gaming industry under the Sky Bet, Sky Poker, Sky Vegas and Sky Bingo brands.

This week chief executive Richard Flint told the Yorkshire Post that the group intends to double its gross margin over the next five years after moving its operations to the city of Leeds. Flint said that the drive would be to grow current gross margin of GBP65 million to GBP130 million by 2015 through increasing its currently 10 percent market share and the deployment of new technology.

Flint revealed that the company has been taking on new marketing and technical staff in order to power the initiative, developing new ways to make Sky's offering more accessible to punters. The company is presently growing revenues at the rate of 25 percent per annum following a restructuring that saw the size of its call centre slightly reduced and an expansion of its technology team.

One area of focus is the mobile gambling field and in-play betting, which the company has identified as an area where significant growth can be achieved. Along with its mobile activities, the company is currently developing an iPhone and Android app., he revealed.

Sky's activities will not be limited to the UK, either - Flint said that overseas expansion was definitely on the cards and being studied, with special focus on the regulated online gambling market in Italy.

Sky Betting and Gaming currently employs 220 staff following the move to Leeds last month, where it joins and the Sky customer contact centre, also based in the city, which caught the company's eye due to the availability of office space, good transport links to London and a pool of young graduate talent.

Flint told the newspaper that the company's player base was expanding at a rate of 30 percent a year, with around 400,000 customers currently active in placing bets or playing games. The demographic is typically aged between 20 and 45 and bets an average of GBP5-GBP10 at a time, with the north of the UK betting more than the south.

During the interview, Flint emphasised the value of a regulated online gambling market in which trackability and effective measures against underage and problem gamblers, criminal elements and money laundering are all strongly in place.

"Millions of people bet every week and hundreds of thousands bet online," said Flint. "The number of people who have problems is a small proportion of that.

"But there are people who exhibit signs of addiction and struggle to control their betting. The UK industry is very closely regulated and there are lots of things that we have to do to make sure the risk of people having problems and under-age betting is reduced."

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