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Big decline for 888.com but Dragonfish saves the day


888 EBITDA dips, but Dragonfish revenues soar

888.com's year end results for 2009 were published this week, showing an 18 percent decline in EBITDA, and a welcome boost to overall revenues thanks to b2b division Dragonfish.

EBITDA of Euro 33.7 million at the gambling group was down 18 percent on the year before, but the group's business-to-business arm grew revenue by 33 percent with a series of impressive deals.

Dragonfish, launched in March last year, recorded revenue of US$51.3 million, up from US$38.6 million the year before in a series of deals with partners that have included Harrah's Interactive Entertainment, Linden Labs, Bwin Italia, Phumelela, Loper Gate and mobile technology company Probability.

Dragonfish shared star status with 888.com's other top performing subsidiary division handling emerging markets, which boosted revenues spectacularly from US413.8 million to US425.1 million – a rise of 83 percent.

888's total operating income declined 6 percent to US$246.7 million, which Management attributed to the poor economic climate last year and foreign currency fluctuations. Profit before tax dipped 10 percent to US$34.6 million.

Real money registered customer accounts rose 22 percent across the group to number 7.1 million, from 5.8 million last time.

In related news, 888.com has apparently fallen foul of the Australian authorities, according to reports in The Australian newspaper.

The Australian Communications and Media Authority told the newspaper that it was investigating a breach of the integrated Gambling Act, confirming to the newspaper that it had received a formal complaint.
"We have had one complaint and our investigation is ongoing. However, we have not closed down the site," the spokesman said, declining to elaborate further on the report or discuss exactly what irregularities were under review. However the site did become unavailable briefly during the day, and this triggered speculation that it had been blocked.

A 888 spokesman described the interrupted service thus: "Unfortunately, the 888 site is temporarily unavailable. At this stage, we do not have an expected time for it to be available, and we unfortunately cannot take bets at this time.

"Once there is further information available, we will post this on the website."
The Australian noted that the chief executive officer of Australian operations for betting exchange Betfair, Andrew Twaits, attacked the site's legitimacy in a blog on March 17 this year.
Twaits wrote: "Many of the operators offering online poker to Australians do so under the guise of `.net' or `play for free' sites.

“Once customers are on board, they are `cross-sold' to the illegal play-for-money sites."
He went on to observe that 888 Holdings plc had launched the new betting agency 888sport.
"The company has no Australian wagering licence, they have been through no probity checks by federal or state authorities, they have not had to apply for race fields approval and they are using the face of their online poker business Shane Warne to promote their new Australian wagering business”, said Twaits.
“It makes a mockery of the local licensing regime.”

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