HomeGamblingFlutter finance boss claims customers will ‘lose out’ if free bets banned

Flutter finance boss claims customers will ‘lose out’ if free bets banned

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Paul Edgecliffe-Johnson claimed such a ban would see customers “lose out”.

The new gambling bill, which formally establishes the Gambling Regulatory Authority of Ireland (GRAI), will cover online and in-person gambling, and include powers to regulate advertising, gambling websites and apps.

The proposed legislation would ban inducements to customers to engage in gambling. Those incentives include free bets and special offers. The ban would apply regardless of the risk-profile of a betting customer.

Mr Edgecliffe-Johnson claimed that 500,000 customers used a free bet in Ireland last year “without problems”. He maintained that if the ban on free bets is introduced that customers will “lose out”.

“We agree that operators shouldn’t target free bets at someone who’s been identified at a high risk to problem gambling, but the draft language goes well beyond this,” said Mr Edgecliffe-Johnson.

“The new regulator should be able to look at the evidence and decide the best route forward. The ban shouldn’t be hardwired into the bill from the off,” he added. “The regulator should be allowed to work out what is best for Ireland, rather than the enacted primary legislation, that’s very difficult then for the regulator to influence or adjust.”

Mr Edgecliffe-Johnson was speaking as Flutter reported a strong set of results for 2023 as its US business entered profitability for the first time.

The group, which operates in a number of countries such as Ireland, the UK, Australia, Serbia, India and Armenia, saw its revenue jump 24.6pc to $11.8bn (€10.9bn). Its so-called further adjusted earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (Ebitda) was 45pc higher at $1.87bn.

The company’s shares started trading in New York at the end of January and Flutter has adopted dollar-reporting and US accounting rules. It intends to move its primary listing from London to New York later this year.

Flutter – the world’s biggest online gambling firm – said that it increased its average number of monthly players last year by a fifth to 12.3 million. In the United States, FanDuel added 3.7 million more customers, and saw its revenue jump almost 41pc to just under $4.5bn.

The gambling group expects FanDuel’s revenue to rise to between $5.8bn and $6.2bn this year, and for its further adjusted Ebitda to grow to between $635m and $785m.

Non-cash impairments of $1.68bn drove Flutter to a loss, despite the performance during 2023. In the final quarter of the year, it recognised a $725m intangible asset impairment in sales and marketing expenses related to the trademark of its PokerStars unit. There was also a $791m impairment in relation to acquired intangibles amortisation.

Flutter chief executive Peter Jackson said that 2024 has started “very well” for the group.

Mr Edgecliffe-Johnson said Flutter remains committed to its Irish corporate and retail presence. The group employs about 2,800 people in Ireland, split almost equally between its headquarters and its high street Paddy Power chain.

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