Playtech sees 22% revenue growth for FY 2019

Playtech sees 22% revenue growth for FY 2019

Playtech saw revenue of €1.5bn ($1.64bn) for the full year 2019, a rise of 22% year-on-year.

Adjusted EBITDA for the period was €383.1m, up 11%.

Due to a series of discontinued costs, impairment charges and higher taxation duties across core markets, Playtech’s adjusted net profit was €133.6m, a decrease of 50%.

Playtech generated B2B revenue of €553.9m for 2019, down 2%, while its B2C revenue was €900.5m, a rise of 56%.

The company attributed its growth mainly to the inclusion of Italian supplier Snaitech’s results for the entire year, which it acquired in April 2018 for $1.04bn.

Snaitech saw revenue of €829.7m, a 62% increase.

However, when comparing Snaitech figures as if it were part of the group for all 12 months of the previous year, revenue fell 7%, driven by a 14% decrease in gaming machine revenue and an increase in Italian gambling tax.

Alan Jackson, Playtech Chairman, said: “Our core B2B gambling business reported strong growth in 2019.

“In addition, we made further strategic progress by entering newly regulated markets, signing new customers, expanding existing relationships and continuing to innovate with new product launches. Together these are laying the foundations for our future growth.

“In our B2C gambling business, Snaitech had a fantastic 2019 and continues to gain market share.”

Pragmatic Play releases stunning new slot Golden Beauty

Pragmatic Play, a leading content provider for the gaming industry, has launched Golden Beauty, the latest title in its ever-expanding portfolio.

The 4×5, 75 lines video slot contains golden lotus flowers which will turn into Wilds every 10 spins when hit. Player can even choose their own volatility in the Free Spins option with up to 15 roaming Wilds.

Pots of gold, ruby broaches and delicate flowers grace the reels and three or more bonus symbols in any position trigger the free game session.

With its simple gameplay and stunning imagery, Golden Beauty’s mystical Empress takes players on an immersive tour of the Far-East and on to big prizes.

Melissa Summerfield, Chief Commercial Officer at Pragmatic Play, said: “Golden Beauty is the latest in a long list of beautifully designed slots and added to our popular portfolio.

“The feedback we’ve received from players has been extremely positive, with many citing the gorgeous graphics and gamification as a reason for the enjoyable gameplay.

“We’re thrilled to offer it to operators and we’re sure Golden Beauty is going to be the perfect addition to any suite of games.”

Golden Beauty is the latest title to join to Pragmatic Play’s award-winning collection of slot games which includes Super7s, Mustang Gold and fan-favourite Wolf Gold.

The provider’s entire portfolio of video slots, bingo, and other games is available to its operator partners via one single API.

Aurora couple first to go to prison in connection with large-scale Colorado black market marijuana ring

An Aurora couple was sentenced in federal court this week for their role in a large-scale black market marijuana grow operation, the first people to be sent to prison as part of a massive Denver-area drug take-down announced last year.

Huanyu Yan, 54, and You Lan Xiang, 50, received 36 months and 30 months in federal prison, respectively, for growing nearly 900 marijuana plants in their basement with plans to distribute the drug, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said in a news release.

The two were found guilty in December of marijuana cultivation following a four-day trial.

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Red Rake Gaming Debuts Solomon: The King Slot

Spanish online casino content developer and supplier Red Rake Gaming is taking slots enthusiasts to the palace of the mighty and wise King Solomon to experience a world of splendor with its new title Solomon: The King.

The new slot arrives with a nice 6×10 grid and cascading reels, a feature a lot of players simply love. Solomon: The King is also packed with other exciting features that create 1 million different ways to win.

A look at the table shows that players need three or more matching symbols to form a winning combination. The low pays include the 9-A card symbols. The higher-value symbols are represented by a Book of Spells, the Seal of Solomon (an elaborate gold ring), a Golden Chest hiding many of King Solomon’s treasures, and the King himself.

The Solomon symbol is the highest paying symbol on the paytable, awarding 50x a player’s bet for a six of a kind winning combo.

The base game starts with players setting their bet and hitting the spin button. Three matching symbols on successive reels from the first reel on will pay out the wins indicated on the paytable. Thanks to the cascading reels feature, the winning symbols disappear to make room for new symbols that could potentially create more winning combinations.

Special Features

Solomon: The King comes with a Free Spins feature and a Mini Game that offers a maximum payout of up to 2,100 times the player’s stake. The maximum payout of the game is set at 20,000 times a player’s stake.

In order to trigger the Free Spins mode, players need to line up 5 or more Respins within a spin. The Respins are indicated in the side bar located at the left side of the grid. Players need to complete all five letters of the word BONUS on the bar in order to unlock the Free Spins Feature.

When all letters light up, players get 8 free spins. They can also win 2, 4, or 8 more free spins if they manage to complete the +2, +4, or +8 symbols on the bar. During Free Spins, players can multiply their winnings by up to x100 thanks to random multipliers.

During base game, non-winning Solomon symbols are collected to fill a progress bar that is showed on the left side of the screen. Once the bar is filled, the Solomon Mini Game is triggered, offering players more chances to increase their winnings.

The special feature starts with 3 initial spins and 7 Solomon symbols located randomly across the reels. When new Solomon symbols hit the reels, they can fuse with the existing ones to trigger more wins.

Solomon: The King is the latest of several slots from Red Rake Gaming to utilize the cascading reels mechanic, with Asp of Cleopatra, Twin Harlequin, and Viva Las Vegas being some of the others.

Source: New Release! Solomon the King

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More than 80% of Denver teens say they don’t use marijuana

The majority of teenagers living in Denver are not using marijuana, according to new survey data compiled by the city. Of the teens who do, the number of daily users has increased slightly.

City officials surveyed 537 teens in Denver in 2019 to assess the effectiveness of the High Costs youth marijuana prevention program and released the results Wednesday.

Of survey respondents ages 13 to 17, 81% said they do not currently use marijuana. The survey included 18-year-olds for the first time and found 61% of them do not currently use marijuana.

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William Hill 2019 Profit Beats Management Guidance

British bookmaker William Hill beat its annual profit expectations despite tough operating environment in its domestic UK gambling market, the company announced today.

However, the legacy sports betting and gambling operator is bracing for a new hit to its profitability as UK regulators gear up preparations for a ban on the use of credit cards for gambling.

William Hill’s operating profit fell 37% in the 52 weeks to December 31, 2019 to £147 million, ahead of management expectations of about £143 million. The company made a statutory loss before tax of £37.6 million on exceptional charge and adjustments of £134.1 million, predominantly related to the closure of betting shops and subsequent redundancies.

William Hill was forced to close more than 700 betting shops around the UK, following a massive cut of the maximum stake on fixed-odds betting terminals from £100 to £2. The UK Government cracked down on the controversial gambling machines in April 2019 after pressure from anti-gambling lobbyists.

Full-year net revenue was down 2% to £1.58 billion and operating cash flow dropped 7% to £183 million. William Hill’s net debt increased to £535.7 million due to the acquisition of Swedish gambling operator Mr Green in early 2019. William Hill paid £242 million for the digital gambling operation.

US Expansion Continues

William Hill’s growth in the US sports betting market was the highlight of the company’s 2019 financial report. The bookmaker said that its US net revenue grew 38% year on year, capturing a 24% nationwide market share.

William Hill further revealed that its purpose-built digital platform went live and that its online channels handled 55% of all US bets placed throughout the year.

The company has been present in the Nevada sports betting market for a while now, but has recently been able to expand its presence across more states around the nation. Earlier this week, the company announced that it has secured its entry into the nascent Michigan sports betting market through a partnership with Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians.

And earlier in February, William Hill penned a sports media partnership with CBS Sports that would significantly boost the operator’s brand exposure across various digital channels.

Looming Credit Card Ban and Its Impact on Profitability

While William Hill is content with the fact that it managed to beat management guidance, the company warned in its latest financial report that it expects a big blow from the looming ban on credit card gambling.

The UK Gambling Commission announced earlier this year that the ban would take effect on April 1.

William Hill said that the crackdown would cost it between £5 million and £10 million. Credit card payments account for 5% of the gambling operator’s digital revenue.

Commenting on the company’s financial performance in 2019, CEO Ulrik Bengtsson said that last year “was a year of transition during which we executed on our ambition to diversify internationally with the acquisition of Mr Green and the continued strong growth of our US business.”

Mr. Bengtsson went on that William Hill “delivered a strong operating performance, ahead of our expectations and against a challenging regulatory backdrop.”

Of his expectations for 2020, the gambling executive said that they move into the new year “in a stronger position” as “a quarter of revenue is now generated outside the UK” and after they made “positive progress with our digital platform, launching our purpose-built platform in the US and product developments in the Online business in 2019.”

Source: William Hill: 2019 Final Results

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iSoftBet Launches Fishin’ For Gold Slot and New Bonus Mechanic

Ice finishing is a favorite winter pastime to many due to its quiet serenity and that bit of additional challenge it has compared to fishing in warm weather.

Online gaming content supplier iSoftBet has transformed that quiet thrill of ice fishing into a quest for riches in its newest slot Fishin’ For Gold.

Aside from the more conventional ways of hitting a big win, the game offers players extra chance for an even bigger catch thanks to iSoftBet’s new Bonus Chance mechanic.

Fishin’ For Gold features a traditional 5×3 grid with 25 fixed paylines. The eight symbols on the paytable include the J-A royals as the lowest paying symbols, a distressed old boot, a bucket full of fish, a penguin, and a polar bear. The polar bear is the game’s premium symbol, paying out 40x the stake for five of a kind.

There are no wild symbols during the base game. An icon featuring a cute smiling fish appears on the reels as the Bonus Symbol. When three of these symbols land, they trigger the Bonus feature.

The Bonus mode starts with players choosing one of four animal anglers – a polar bear, penguin, walrus, and lion. Each of these anglers is located above a hole in the ice and pulls the catch. Each fish these pull stands for a free spin, while each symbol that pops up adds a wild. Some wilds feature multipliers of x2, x3, and x5.

During the Free Spins mode, players can also come across the Gone Fishing symbol. Every time players collect three Gone Fishing symbols, they get two more free spins.

The New Bonus Chance Mechanic

As mentioned earlier, iSoftBet’s new slot is the first to utilize the content studio’s newest game mechanic Bonus Chance. The feature allows players to fill up a meter every time two Bonus Symbols appear on the reels.

Bonus Chance also gives players the opportunity to spin a wheel whenever they feel inclined to do so for a chance to unlock the Free Spins game.

The bonus meter is located above the reels. It is divided into a hundred red areas. Every time two Bonus Symbols appear on the reels and are collected, one of the red zones becomes green.

As already mentioned, the meter can be triggered at any time – the more green parts it has, the higher the chance to trigger the Free Spins feature. The meter’s activation comes at a cost of one time the player’s stake.

If the needle of the wheel lands on a green zone, the Free Spins mode is unlocked. If it lands on a red area, the meter gets reset back to starting level.

Commenting to their newest game mechanic, iSoftBet Head of Games Mark Claxton said that Bonus Chance is the first of a series of new exciting tools they are planning to introduce this year and “this style of feature rewards loyalty and gives players the potential to choose their own strategy regarding when to spin the Bonus Chance wheel.”

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UK performance sees William Hill 2019 revenue fall 2%, despite international growth

William Hill has reported a 2% year-on-year fall in full-year net revenue for 2019, to £1.58bn ($2.05bn).

Despite the drop, the operator has labelled 2019 a “well-executed year of transition,” with April’s reduction of maximum stakes on fixed-odds betting terminals from £100 to £2 certainly creating a significant impact for the company.

William Hill was also comparing a 52-week period to a 53-week period for the year prior.

Adjusted operating profit from existing operations fell 37% to £147m, although this was “ahead of management expectations.”

This stemmed from exceptional charges and adjustments of £134.1m, primarily in relation to the closure of shops and redundancies.

Overall, William Hill reported a statutory loss before tax of £37.6m, with UK revenue falling 13% to £1.2bn.

However, US net revenue increased 38% to £126.4m, while revenue from the rest of the world rose 71% to £257.4m.

William Hill CEO Ulrik Bengtsson said: “2019 was a year of transition during which we executed on our ambition to diversify internationally, with the acquisition of Mr Green and the continued strong growth of our US business. 

“We move into 2020 in a stronger position. Almost a quarter of revenue is now generated outside the UK compared to 15% in 2018.”

The immediate market response to the results has been a 3% fall in share price to around £1.71.

Great Britain mobile gambling participation sees 6% increase for 2019; industry trust down

In an annual gambling participation report released by the Gambling Commission, the percentage of participants who had engaged in mobile gambling in Great Britain over a four-week period was found to have risen 6% from 2018, to 50%.

The total number that had gambled online was up 3% at 21%, and 56% of those online gamblers had more than one online account, with an average of three online accounts for every participant.

Total gambling participation in Great Britain rose 1% from 2018, with 47% of respondents confirming they had gambled in the past four weeks.

This figure dropped to 32% when excluding those who had only gambled on the National Lottery draws.

The National Lottery draws remained the most popular gambling activity, while football and horseracing were the most popular sports betting activities.

The proportion of respondents who had seen a gambling advertisement on television in the past week was down 3% at 51%.

However, trust in the industry was down, with 43% of participants associating gambling with crime, up 5% from 2018, and 29% believing gambling to be fair and trustworthy, down 1% at 29%.

The report was based on quarterly telephone and online tracking surveys conducted by Populus on behalf of the Gambling Commission.

The latest data from the NHS Digital Health Survey for England estimates a current national problem gambling rate of 0.5%.

50-50 split between UK and international revenue “not unreasonable” long term

Following William Hill’s FY 2019 trading update, where it reported a 2% year-on-year fall in group revenue to £1.58bn ($2.05bn), Gambling Insider caught up with CEO Ulrik Bengtsson.

The first thing that struck me about William Hill’s results was the contrast between UK and international. You said almost a quarter of revenue is now generated outside the UK compared to 15% for 2018. Ideally, what percentage would you aim to get this to within the next few quarters?

In our online business, it’s actually 35%. We haven’t set a specific number but we do have a very clear ambition of growing and continuing to diversify.

In the long term, can you see that being a 50-50 split or is it too early to say?

It’s not unreasonable, with the pace of US growth. We added $1bn in wagering in the US last year. With the way the business is developing, and if we can get our international business to work, I don’t think that’s an unreasonable number.

You mentioned a 24% nationwide market share in the US and one in every four US sports wagers being taken through William Hill. But considering the performance of DraftKings and FanDuel, do you have any specific plans to grow considering that competition?

Well I think no one can match 24% across the US. Obviously, that varies in various states but I don’t think anyone can match 24% nationwide.

Regulatory headwinds have affected 2019’s results and you’ve stated the credit card ban will reduce deposits by a small percentage as well. Are any preparations in place, or are there any concerns for the future, regarding a potential online stake limit in the UK?

I think our industry has always had and will always have regulatory challenges. So there’s nothing really new in that context. More specifically, I think we have done a huge amount of work in the last 1-2 years when it comes to protecting customers, whether it’s age verification, source of funds, customer due diligence and the responsible gambling algorithms we have put in place; the consequence of that is proactively reaching out to customers that we do think need help.

All these things are something you cannot do in a retail environment; you can only do this online. That changes the basis for this conversation. When I was at the House of Lords a couple of weeks ago, my feeling was that there is a real interest in a sensible and evidence-based review of the Gambling Act. These are the sort of considerations that come into that.

With this being an out-of-the-ordinary year for retail, and considering William Hill’s restructuring, what kind of results are you projecting for retail in 2020?

I think Ruth [Prior, CFO] has given a number of between £60-70m in EBIT, which is a slight upgrade from the £50-70m we gave before.

So does that suggest encouragement at these results compared to what could have happened after the fixed-odds betting terminal restrictions?

Make no mistake, the £2 stake limit wiped roughly £70m of EBIT from our retail and gaming business, a decline of 30%. In that sense, it’s been a very painful and big project for the group. But we executed it very well and, in the end, we came out a little bit better than we thought at the end of the year.

You mentioned an investment in proprietary technology; would this lead you to any more M & A like the Mr Green acquisition? Obviously DraftKings’ acquisition of SBTech is notable in the US.

We are really focused right now on the operational performance of William Hill; customer team and execution and the competitiveness of our offering. That’s all that is important right now, including the components we have in place to build the US business and how to execute on those in the best possible way.

Would that make M & A less of a current focus for William Hill, in that case?

We always look at things on merit but our focus right now is to operationally perform within the group.

Finally, after a few months in your role as CEO, how confident are you now of leaving your own individual mark on William Hill’s direction and future performance?

I’ve been with the company for two years so I had some time to prepare myself, if you will. I feel I have a clear view on where we need to go and where we need to improve. We’re in a very good position, with a good team and having made some important appointments. But we also do recognise there are challenges and a lot more work to be done, so we’re not resting on our laurels. I think I have a pretty clear picture of where we need to go.