The chief executive of Paddy Power owner Flutter Entertainment has said that public safety is of primary concern for major upcoming sporting events such as the Cheltenham Festival and Euro 2020 as the coronavirus continues to spread.
While the organisers of the Cheltenham Festival, which draws as many as 15,000 visitors from Ireland, have so far said the meeting is due to go ahead next month, there are concerns that high-profile sporting events could become casualties of the coronavirus epidemic.
Ireland’s upcoming rugby fixture against Italy has already been called off.
“We’re got to make sure that we look at these events from a public health perspective,” said Flutter chief executive Peter Jackson. “It is important that that has priority. We will clearly give due consideration to whatever it is that the authorities decide.”
He added: “We’ve got a situation now where the game against Italy has been postponed. There’s clearly going to be some sporting disruption. Some of these events are important for us, and some of them less so. For example, the Olympics is not a particularly big event for us from a customer acquisition or wagering perspective. Clearly things like Cheltenham and the Euros [Euro 2020] are.”
“We’ll have to cross the bridge when we come to it in terms of whether those events go ahead or not,” said Mr Jackson. “From our perspective, it is important that people make the right decisions. We’ll do as we have done in the past, with equine flu and foot and mouth and all these other things that come to test us from time to time.”
Flutter Entertainment also owns Betfair as well as businesses in Australia and the United States.
His comments come as earnings at Flutter Entertainment fell 15pc last year to £385m (€458m) as tax and regulatory costs impacted performance.
In the 12 months to 31 December 2019 the group incurred incremental tax and regulatory changes of £107m (€127m).
In its annual results today the group said its investment in the United States also affected earnings.
Excluding the impact of the tax and regulatory changes, underlying earnings increased 12pc.
Meanwhile, Flutter grew revenues by 14pc during 2019 to over £2.1bn (€2.5bn).
Paddy Power Betfair recorded online revenue growth of 6pc, which the group said was impacted by “our enhanced responsible gambling initiatives.”
In Australia, income was up 14pc offsetting much of the tax increases there.
Peter Jackson, CEO of Flutter Entertainment, said he was “immensely proud of the group's performance given the complex regulatory environment.”
“2019 was a very significant year for Flutter, with further successful expansion in the United States, enhancement of responsible gambling initiatives within our business and the announcement in October of our proposed merger with The Stars Group,” he said.
The group said this year has begun strongly, with good customer and revenue momentum across all divisions.
It said integration planning is progressing well for its proposed combination with The Stars Group.