High Spenders Boost Ladbrokes Telephone Betting

British bookmaker Ladbrokes said on Thursday it had seen a big rise in telephone betting from high-spending customers in recent weeks, helping to offset tough trading in its over-the-counter business.

The firm, with over 2,500 betting shops in the U.K., Ireland and Belgium, said operating profit at its telephone betting business would be around 45 million pounds ($90.8 million) higher in the six months to June 30 compared with the same period last year.

This is a big turnaround from the situation after the first four months of the year, when Ladbrokes said business from high-spending telephone customers was down around 10% on the year before.

The telephone betting business made an operating profit of 16.6 million pounds in the first half of 2006.

"It's been pretty much across the piece," a Ladbrokes spokesman said, when asked what high spenders had been spending their money on.

"Ascot was good for the bookmakers. And there was the Grand National," he said referring to two of the biggest events of the horse racing calendar. "There was international soccer, golf, tennis...."

Ladbrokes, which is due to report first-half results on Aug. 9, said that apart from telephone betting it was trading in line with expectations despite tough conditions for its betting shops, which face a growing challenge from Internet gambling.

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