The owner of the Betfred bookie empire, Fred Done, has shared his vision of the group's future with the Manchester Evening News following the sale earlier this week of his Netherlands Antilles-registered online casino operation Betfred NV for GBP 27.2 million to an undisclosed buyer.
Done said his Betfred empire would open its 800th land branch by the spring and he believed the group could grow to 1 000 outlets within three years. The expansion would create 350 jobs over the next 12 months in a Britain desperate to create employment in the current recession.
Over the past few years, Betfred has expanded at a rate of around 80 shops a year with investment of GBP 15 million, Done revealed. But during the current financial year, which ends in March, the chain will have added 50 outlets with 70 openings and 20 closures. This year, it will add about 40 shops at a cost of around GBP 7 million, creating 350 jobs, he predicted. The group currently employs 4 000 staff, including 350 at its headquarters.
Turnover is proving robust despite the economic climate, Done told the newspaper, with growth of around five percent to an expected GBP 1.6 billion.
The group is also investing heavily in its IT operations with a GBP 1.5 million programme to introduce chip-and-pin technology in all its shops.
Betfred shelved plans to sell or float the business on the stock exchange at the end of 2007, discouraged by turbulent market conditions and preferring to focus on growth, but may reconsider a stock market listing in between three and five years' time, Done said.
The group's e-gaming operation based in Gibraltar is surging ahead, Done revealed. It offers bingo, poker, casino and roulette games online and has grown from a standing start 15 months ago to revenues of around GBP 300 million and a staff of 26, which Done expects to double over the next 12 months.