Stanley Leisure, the UK’s biggest casino operator, on Wednesday reported a 17 per cent rise in interim profit on the back of a surge in the use of fixed-odds betting terminals.

Only three weeks ago, however, the company’s share price dropped 11 per cent after it warned that full-year profit would be 20 per cent below forecasts because of a run of pre-Christmas bad luck.

Pre-tax profit for the six months to October 31 was £24.7m (£21.1m). The numbers were better-than-expected as analysts had forecast interim profit of £23.9m.

Bob Wiper, chief executive, said: “The results for the first half were satisfactory and we are pleased with the increased contribution from our London casinos and fixed-odds betting terminals”

Stanleys, which recently acquired a 50 per cent stake in Maxims casinos, said it would consider extending the scope of the joint venture to consider ‘all new casino opportunities’.

The chairman said: “The [government’s] proposed relaxation of the 24-hour membership rule and the ability to advertise will have a positive impact on our existing estate.”

But the company reiterated its full-year profit warning saying that results would be “broadly in line” with the previous year citing provisions it has had to make for unpaid debts. Also, its betting-shop division had suffered after punters hit a lucky streak on horses and soccer.

The company also said it had been hit by longer opening hours and costs from refurbishing some of its shops. But this was largely offset by profits from its betting machines which rose a staggering 60 per cent to £10.1m (£3.8m)

Profits at Stanley Leisure’s traditional betting shop fell 7 per cent to £14m as trading conditions worsened year on year. Profits at the company’s international operations dropped 14 per cent to £1.8m where the trading conditions were ‘challenging’, the company said.

Turnover rose 28 per cent to £963.5m (£751.3m). Earnings per share rose to 12.7p (10.6p). The interim dividend was 3p (2.75p).

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