The scheme, which is on trial in 180 stores, will be rolled out across many of Ladbrokes' 2,000 betting shops and will be announced on Thursday alongside half-year results. Rather than relocating call centre staff to Gibraltar, as rival William Hill announced plans to do last week, Ladbrokes is retraining shop staff to take bets over the phone, as an extension of the 300 staff based at its betting call centre in Rayners Lane, northwest London.
During quiet times when there is more than one member of staff on duty, phone bets will be routed to the stores. 'It's just a sensible use of resources,' said a company source. Ladbrokes closed its call centre in Liverpool earlier this year, but has no plans to shut the London site 'in the foreseeable future'.
Phone betting for bookmarkers is in decline. Ladbrokes says that this year's World Cup was the first major sporting event in which more bets came in via mobile internet applications, such as on iPhones, than phone calls. Thursday's figures are the first set of results for Ladbrokes' new chief executive Richard Glynn, who will update shareholders and the City on the progress of the company-wide review he initiated when he took the job in April.
For Project Galvanise, as it was dubbed, Glynn hired the consultant AlixPartners to review the business, including improving income from fixed-odds terminals in the betting shops. The Ladbrokes loyalty card and the group's online gambling operation are also under scrutiny. Glynn is expected to outline plans to improve profit margins, which lag 20 per cent behind those of William Hill's shops, which are likely to include a mix of new products in the fixed-odds terminals and a drive for greater efficiency.
Profits for 2010 so far are likely to have been boosted by the World Cup, when many punters failed to predict the opening draws, although they will have suffered from a poor - in bookmakers' terms - Royal Ascot and Grand National, when many favourites won. Analysts believe Ladbrokes will record a flat operating profit of £99million for the first six months of the year, compared with £98.6million last year. Full-year expectations are down, with a profit of about £161million on a turnover of £910million.
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