Online gambling group Party Gaming plc has reported a significant 32 percent rise in fourth quarter sales - a hopeful sign that punters are back enjoying a wager after a hard year.
Sales rose to $132.2 million in the three months to December 31 from $100.4 million in the same period in 2008, helped by two acquisitions and a particularly strong performance in its Online Casino division.
Finance director Martin Weigold told reporters that casino revenue was boosted by a customer who won $5 million in one of the group's large jackpots and recycled $2 million of that win back into Party Gaming's casino website.
Weigold said the company expects to report double digit sales and profit growth in the year ahead.
The bullish outlook for 2010 sits comfortably with the group's 2009 earnings, which it expects to be ahead of its own board forecasts.
Weigold said market consensus is for EBITDA of $132 million in 2010, and Party Gaming expects to outperform this.
Alongside its Internet casino improvements, the gambling group reversed an 18-month trend of quarter-on-quarter revenue declines for its online poker division, posting a 9 percent rise in sales to $49.1 million.
The company's poker operations had been under pressure due to stiff competition from rivals, and the company has reacted by increasing the bonuses paid and expanding its loyalty program to retain players.
It already has a growing presence in Italy, and with France and denmark due to formalize regulation this year and next, the company is confident of its future growth prospects.
Party's chief executive, Jim Ryan, told reporters the company was in "active discussions" with a number of parties, fuelling speculation that a major deal could be on the cards in 2010. Bwin has been repeatedly mentioned by analysts as the partner of choice.
The gambling group said that it is pursuing more business-to-business and government deals after reaching an agreement earlier in January to provide on online gaming platform for the operator of the Danish national lottery.
The company also announced the appointment of Per Widerstrom, previously CEO of the French Online Gambling group Mangas Gaming. Widerstrom is take up responsibilities with Party Gaming as group chief operating officer, a newly created post which effectively frees up CEO Ryan to focus on M&A and new business opportunities.