Ladbrokes bets on a return to casino sector

Ladbrokes, Britain’s biggest bookmaker, returns to the casino industry after a gap of more than five years when it opens the Ladbrokes Casino and Sports Bar at the London Paddington Hilton hotel tomorrow.

The opening of the GBP 5 million venture comes at a time of heightened speculation that Ladbrokes, which recently sold its Hilton International hotels arm for GBP 3.3 billion, is actively seeking acquisitions in both the casino and betting arenas.

Sources say that the group has been monitoring the proposed merger between Stanley Leisure and London Clubs International, possibly with a view to making a bid for LCI. Some analysts believe that Ladbrokes, which sold its casino arm to Gala Group in 2001, may wait until the merger is completed before launching a bid for the enlarged company.