Why Leeds is to play a starring role in world's biggest online betting firm

Leeds is to be the main hub for the UK and Ireland division of Flutter, the largest online betting company on the planet.

The £10bn deal to merge Paddy Power and Sky Betting and Gaming owner The Stars Group officially completes today creating a combined group with revenues of nearly £4bn.

Ian Proctor, chief executive of the Sky Bet side of the business will spearhead the domestic UK division alongside chief operating officer Conor Grant, with the former predicting that the newly enlarged group will great new opportunities and avenues for growth in the region.

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Mr Proctor added that the current Covid-19 lockdown had seen its sports betting drop by 88 per cent but had led to a surge in the gaming side of the business which was up 20 per cent.

An absence of sport has seen a drop off in wagersAn absence of sport has seen a drop off in wagers
An absence of sport has seen a drop off in wagers

With all staff currently working from home, Mr Proctor told The Yorkshire Post that his firm was better placed to deal with the ramifications of the shutdown.

“Overall, we are operating at about 50 per cent. But nevertheless that still represents around half a million customers a week,” he said.

“I feel optimistic. Live sport is going to come back at some point in time. It is almost certain it will be behind closed doors.

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“We are going to see more customers that have already transferred online and I think will stay online.

Ian ProctorIan Proctor
Ian Proctor

“The customers are there, we are just waiting for it to start up again.

“If the football leagues across Europe open, we will see a significant uplift when that happens. And of course domestic football would be huge. I think we are one of the lucky ones at the moment. We have a business despite the fact there is no sport.”

The merger is the fourth change of ownership for Sky Bet since 2015 and was signed off by shareholders and the competition watchdog in recent days.

Both Paddy Power and Sky Bet will remain as brands.

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“Sky Bet is going to be part of the world’s biggest online betting and gaming company, which can only be a positive thing for people’s jobs, progression and opportunities and for the ability of the business,” he said.

“I see Leeds as remaining as the main hub for the company in the UK and Ireland division. I think that the opportunity to grow is still there. We have a really good track record. We are in

Leeds for a reason because there is great talent that we can hire. It will stand us in excellent stead for a business in Leeds when we combine and work with them as well.”

The firm was supposed to be consolidating all of its operations and more than 1,00 staff members into one building at Leeds’s Wellington Place, although Mr Proctor concedes remote working is likely to continue for the foreseeable future.

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Live sport may not be happening but customers are still finding events to back.

Mr Proctor said that Swedish and Russian table tennis had seen a surge in interest, as had football in Belarus where games are still happening.

He added that a voiding of the leagues in the UK would give Sky Bet a conundrum in terms of how it treats bets.

“For example if you backed Liverpool and Leeds United to get promoted then we have got all sorts of things to think about. We want people to feel like they have been treated properly. I know I would be mightily annoyed if I had that double.”

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