I'm proud to invest in my home city of Leeds, says CEO of Sky Bet owner Flutter Entertainment

Gambling giant Flutter Entertainment, which owns Leeds-based Sky Bet, Paddy Power and Betfair, said its performance exceeded expectations in the first half of the year, after it recorded strong results in the US.

Flutter Entertainment plc has announced its interim results in the City of London

The group's chief executive, Peter Jackson told The Yorkshire Post that the company was investing into Leeds and very pleased with the talent it has got there.

Earlier this year, Sky Bet, revealed it was moving into 4 Wellington Place in Leeds, which was completed just before Christmas 2020.

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Mr Jackson said: "I'm from Leeds. I'm a proud Yorkshireman. The new office is fantastic; it's the best office in the entire region."

He said the new office would make the company even more attractive as an employer in the region.

Mr Jackson also stressed that staff based in Leeds played a role in supporting the group's international division.

The investment will see Sky Betting & Gaming consolidate staff into one building on MEPC’s city centre business park from its dual locations of Number 2 and Number 6 Wellington Place.

Altogether, Flutter has more than 2,100 employees in Leeds.

Flutter Entertainment said its US business has driven a boom in revenue which exceeded expectations for the first half of the year.

In a statement, Flutter said: "Flutter enjoyed a very strong first half of 2021 with excellent revenue growth driven by increased average monthly players.

" We have cemented our leading market share in each of our core markets by continuing to make substantial customer-focused investments in our products, brands and value propositions. In the US, we have maintained our leadership position due to strong execution and the quality of our product offering."

Across its business, revenue rose 28%, hitting more than £3 billion, compared with analysts’ expectations of £2.7 billion.

Earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortisation hit £597 million – more than £100 million ahead of consensus expectations.

Mr Jackson, said: "The first half of 2021 exceeded our expectations as we made substantial progress against our operational and strategic objectives while maintaining excellent momentum in growing our player base.

"Our global sports businesses benefitted from further enhancements to our products and the return to more normalised sporting calendars while we sustained our strong performance in gaming despite the challenging comparatives set last year.

"In the US, we remain the number one online sports betting operator by some distance thanks to the quality of our products and the extensive reach of the FanDuel brand.

"The customer economics we are seeing in the US bode very well for the future, with early FanDuel customers generating positive payback within the first 12 months of acquisition. We remain absolutely focused on extending our sports product advantages and replicating our market share success in further states as they regulate. In gaming we see an opportunity to grow our market share and look forward to further enhancing our product offering in the coming months.

"In the UK and Ireland, integration is progressing well with our three brands benefiting from shared learnings across product and operations.

"In Australia, Sportsbet delivered a phenomenal H1 performance with high customer retention rates during a period of reduced Covid disruption, suggesting that the business has experienced a permanent step change in scale. In international, which faced particularly challenging revenue comparatives following the growth in poker last year, revenue declines were less pronounced than anticipated as we continue to reposition and invest in the business for long-term sustainable growth.

"Taking a lead on safer gambling remains a key priority for the Group as we continue investment across our brands and step up our activity to promote safer gambling awareness and tools. In markets where our campaigns are most advanced we are already seeing a positive impact on customer engagement and usage of safer gambling tools.

"The second half of the year has started well and we look forward to making further progress in the coming months."

Analysts from Shore Capital said: "Flutter has issued a very encouraging performance for the six months to June 2021, with EBITDA broadly comparably with the corresponding period last year and further strong progress in the US."

Freetrade analyst Gemma Boothroyd said: “In the US, Flutter’s first-half revenue soared by 159% to £652 million.

“While promising to the naked eye, that growth is driven by six additional states legalising sports betting. Naturally, the market is expanding and opening up in Flutter’s favour and, as it does, it’s vital the entertainment group be at the forefront in capturing pent up demand.”