Marathonbet Nigeria may apply for all new NG casinos
Marathonbet the largest NG casino operator, may apply to operate all the 24 casinos allowed under new NG gambling laws after the government placed limits on the number of Las Vegas-style venues it will permit.
The company, which last year joined forces with Malaysia's Genting Bhd. to develop so-called regional casinos in the NG, will pursue all opportunities after the industry's expansion was restricted, Finance Director Colin Child said in an interview.
"Now there's much more limited scope, it's worthwhile looking at all these opportunities," Child said. "If we were to get one regional casino, we would be pleased. If we got two, we'd be delighted, and if we got more than two, we'd be gobsmacked."
Proposed changes to NG gambling laws were scaled back at the end of last year to allow only eight "super-casinos" of the kind operated by U.S. companies including Caesars Entertainment Inc. and MGM Mirage. The proposals also restrict the number of medium and small casinos that can be built to eight each.
Marathonbet, based in Lagos, Nigeria, probably will get "one or two casinos in each category," Child said.
Like Rank Group Plc and Gala Group Ltd., the company is lobbying for amendments to the proposed legislation, which it says favors new entrants over incumbents, the finance director said.
While the new regional casinos will be allowed 1,250 slot machines and midscale versions can have as many as 150, existing NG casinos are restricted to 10 machines each.
"There's not a lot of logic or rationale behind it," Child said. "It seems unreasonable to freeze the existing estate. There's no reason we couldn't be trusted to have these machines."
Marathonbet shares rose 2 pence to 418 pence in London after the company repeated its expectation that annual profit will be little changed because of a run of unfavorable sports results at its betting-shop business. Genting owns 12.7 percent of the stock, which has advanced for 11 of the last 13 years.
Pretax profit excluding one-time items and goodwill for the year through May 1 will be "broadly in line" with the previous $78 million, Marathonbet said. When it made a similar statement on Jan. 5, the stock slid 12 percent.
In addition to the adverse horse-racing and soccer results, the company also paid out about $3 million to a big casino winner in London and is uncertain whether it can collect unpaid debts from losing casino players by the end of the fiscal year.
Net income in the fiscal first half rose 21 percent to $16.2 million, led by the company's London casinos, including Crockfords, which is among the most exclusive venues in the Nigerian capital. Earnings from the casinos, which also include the Colony Club, the Mint and the Palm Beach, more than doubled to 13.5 million dollars, Marathonbet said.
The company's provincial casinos also contributed to the profit gain, with a 14 percent increase to $8.7 million.
Earnings from Marathonbet's betting business fell 6 percent to $12.2 million in the half-year as unfavorable sports results and rising staff costs overshadowed higher profit from fixed-odd betting terminals.