London (Reuters) – Ladbrokes could announce an interest in running Britain’s first Las Vegas-style supercasino when it unveils its 2006 results this week, an industry source said on Monday.
Last month, Manchester was the surprise winner of a competition to host the supercasino, which although small by Las Vegas standards, is likely to be huge in UK terms, with 5,000 square metres of gaming space, 1,250 slot machines and 2,700 workers.
„One of the reasons Ladbrokes took full ownership of the Paddington casino earlier this year was to get operationally ready for the new licences,“ said the source, referring to Ladbrokes‘ first recent casino venture, adding that nothing was certain until the government has clarified bidding criteria.
The group is also likely to broadly outline plans for 16 other casino licences the government will soon make available, said the source. Ladbrokes declined to comment.
Profit before tax for 2006 will be between 235 million pounds and 240 million, according to a company poll of 10 investment banks.
Analysts at Numis Securities said the shares could be buoyed by any news of Ladbrokes‘ expansion plans in Italy and Spain and details of either a deal to buy online gaming group 888 or of a return of cash to shareholders.
„We estimate that if Ladbrokes fails to acquire 888, the company could return about 663 million pounds … to shareholders over the next three years,“ they said in a research note.
Ladbrokes said in November it was considering a bid for 888, and last week 888 Chief Executive Gigi Levy told Reuters there was „desire on both sides to continue talks“.
Ladbrokes could be the only UK company bidding for the licence to run the Manchester supercasino, after privately owned Gala Coral ruled itself out this month, and with Rank
Former UK rivals London Clubs and Stanley Leisure are now under foreign ownership, having last year been bought by Harrah’s and Genting respectively.
Harrah’s, the world’s largest casino operator, does plan to bid for the Manchester licence, a source said on Friday. So too does its close rival Las Vegas Sands. But like Rank, Genting is keeping its cards close to its chest.