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UPDATE 1-Gambling group 888 core earnings jump on strong online betting

(Adds analyst comment, details on headwinds, results)

March 18 (Reuters) - British gambling group 888 Holdings posted higher annual adjusted core earnings on Thursday and signalled strong momentum in 2021 so far, as more people shifted to online betting during coronavirus restrictions.

The company flagged an annualised hit of $70 million to $100 million from regulatory and compliance changes to its revenue, but said it was confident of posting revenue growth in 2021 and would pay a total dividend per share of 18 cents for 2020, compared with 6 cents in the previous year.

“Some of this relates to Germany, a tad for Austria, but the majority pertains to the UK where 888 plans to get ahead of any potential changes to regulation by activating its recently developed Control Center to limit play,” brokerage Stifel analyst Bridie Barrett said.

The company posted adjusted core earnings of $155.6 million for the year ended Dec. 31, compared with $92.1 million in the previous year.

While the pandemic has disrupted sporting events, online betting has surged as people try out different avenues to keep themselves occupied during lockdowns.

The gambling group said it acquired about 1.5 million new members in 2020 across its business-to-customer brands, which includes casino, poker, sport and bingo, representing a 42% jump over the prior year.

The London-listed firm has been ramping up its presence in the United States by launching in new states and recently secured a multi-year extension to its business-to-business poker partnership with Caesars Interactive Entertainment. (Reporting by Tanishaa Nadkar in Bengaluru; Editing by Subhranshu Sahu)

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