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A series of customer-friendly sports results, particularly in UK football, have had a negative impact on the earnings of several bookmakers in Q3 2023.

While Q3 reporting season has only just begun, several operators have already pointed to reduced revenue due to unfavourable sports outcomes, including 888, Entain, Betsson and bet-at-home.

Below, NEXT.io investigates the impact on, and responses of, those operators which have seen fit to address the matter publicly. 

888 Holdings

On 18 October, 888 Holdings published a Q3 2023 trading update, setting out some of the firm’s headline financial results for the quarter.

In September, the operator had already warned that overall group revenue for Q3 was expected to be down some 10% year-on-year as a result of several factors, including “customer friendly sports results.”

That prediction turned out to be accurate last week, as the operator revealed total group revenue had dropped 9.9% to £405m.

The impact of the unfavourable sports results could also be seen more clearly, as 888 revealed its sportsbook net revenue margin was down across all business areas.

Across retail, the margin dropped from 18.5% to 17.9%, which left the land-based business with a modest 0.4% increase in betting revenue, despite a 3.8% increase in stakes.

In 888’s international business, the Q3 sportsbook margin fell from 11.7% to 11.4%, which, coupled with an 8.1% reduction in stakes, led to the segment’s sportsbook revenue falling 10.3%.

In the UK and Ireland Online segment, however, the result was even more concerning.

Sportsbook revenue margin fell from 9.8% to 9%, which meant that together with a 10% reduction in stakes, betting revenue slipped 17.3% year-on-year, down from £65.8m to £54.4m.

In addition to the squeezed sportsbook margins resulting from customer-friendly sports results, 888 cited an “ongoing significant impact from compliance changes implemented in dotcom markets” and “the ongoing impact of safer gambling changes within the UK” as being responsible for its overall performance.

Entain

In September, Entain released a trading update during which it also commented on the customer-friendly sporting results of Q3.

It said the outcomes were likely to impact sports margins during September, resulting in a reduction in pro-forma NGR.

While group online NGR for full-year 2023 is expected to be up by a low double-digit percent, proforma NGR is now expected to fall by a low single-digit percent.

Expectations were dampened further by the group-wide implementation of tightened safer gambling measures, “and ongoing regulatory headwinds persisting longer than expected, particularly in the UK.”

The business did reiterate its expectations for the full year, however, with EBITDA expected to fall between £1bn and £1.05bn, “supported by robust operational controls.”

Betsson 

Betsson also felt compelled to comment on sporting results in Q3 despite delivering another record quarter for revenue, which rose 19% to €237.6m.

Sportsbook revenue climbed by 2% to €63.3m as the sportsbook margin fell by 12%, down from 8.3% last year to 7.3% for Q3 2023.

“The sportsbook margin was negatively affected by many favourite wins and goal-rich games during the start of the European football leagues,” said Betsson AB CEO Pontus Lindwall.

The fan-friendly results have continued into Q4 2023 according to Betsson, driving further declines in sportsbook margin to well below the average margin of the last eight quarters.

“There have been quite a lot of favourites winning and a lot of goals,” reiterated Lindwall on the firm’s Q3 earnings presentation.

“While this undoubtedly adds to the entertainment factor, it has not been conducive to the sportsbook margin,” he added.

Bet-at-home

One operator clearly affected by softer sports margins in Q3 was German-headquartered bet-at-home.

“Adverse sporting results, in particular a disproportionate number of favourite wins in the most relevant football leagues negatively impact sports betting margins in the period from August to October 2023,” the operator said in a statement.

As a result, the firm’s management board has adjusted its guidance for full-year GGR from a range of €50m-€60m to a new range of €44m-€48m.

Still, the operator added that it expects full-year EBITDA to come in at the upper end of a previously announced range, of between -€3m and €1m.

European exposure

Although the above operators mentioned softer betting margins in Q3, not all operators were affected by adverse results.

PointsBet, for example, made no mention of softer sports margins and in fact improved its margins across both Australia and Canada between Q3 2022 and Q3 2023.

Adverse results in British football are likely to have a much smaller impact on the business than its UK-based counterparts, which have a much higher exposure to European football outcomes.

With that said, Australian competitor Tabcorp did make some reference to softer sporting results in Q3, suggesting that weak sports margins, combined with a “softer” macroeconomic environment, were responsible for a 6.1% overall revenue decline during the quarter.

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